Grub Match: Foodie Throwdown in the Nation’s Capital

grub match DC

If the stereotypical New Yorker is loud and rude, what’s the stereotype of someone from Washington, D.C.? If the first D.C. Grub Match is any indication, that person is driven, discerning and a model of good taste. Also, a tall, skinny white female whose name begins with M. And so it was that I found myself deep in the heart of Alexandria with Martha, Mignon and Margaret as they prepared to fight it out for the title.

Round 1: Lyon Hall (Martha’s pick)
Things got off to a smooth start with high praise of the food at Lyon Hall. The word “amazing” was used liberally to describe everything from the sausage to the spaetzle. Though the menu is rife with pork products, even our vegetarian contender Mignon found plenty to like at Lyon Hall, particularly the happy hour specials like the warm pretzels with three different dipping sauces and the pickled vegetables that change weekly.

Margaret did find a few weak spots on the menu, however: “When it came to the cassoulet I was a little disappointed because they didn’t cook it all together, they put some stuff on the side…the whole point is that everything is mixed and delicious together.” Also, she felt that the dessert selection didn’t live up to the high standard set by the savory dishes. Even so, Lyon Hall managed to dodge any serious punches during this round.

Interlude: Vince makes a guerilla grab for the title.
Here’s another difference between a New York Grub Match and the D.C. version: in NYC we make do with beer at a bar, while in D.C., Vince, Martha’s paramour, makes a seriously bitchin’ brunch for everyone. He actually baked loaves of brioche two days beforehand for the express purpose of making it into French toast topped with berries and freshly whipped cream. Which begged the question: was he trying to upend Grub Match by being some sort of dark horse candidate? Things just got interesting. Continue reading

Margaret’s Grub Match Pick: Crème Café & Lounge

cremeThe third and final contender in our special Washington D.C. edition of Grub Match is international attorney and chicken and waffles aficionado Margaret Dennis. Her pick is Crème, a brunch favorite in the northwest quadrant of the city that serves up Southern specialties. Here’s more from Margaret on why she loves both comfort food from home and surprises from abroad:

Do you have any food pet peeves?
“Artistic” (i.e., tiny) portions.  I’m all for savoring my food and not wolfing it down like I’m starving, but if I’m paying to eat out I’d like to leave full.

You’re headed to a deserted island to live on grass and coconut milk–what’s your last meal before you go?
A deliciously prepared cassoulet.  You really can’t beat it on a cold winter’s night.

You’ve come into uncountable gobs of money—who do you hire as your personal chef?
Deb Perelman of the Smitten Kitchen food blog.  Not only are all of her recipes outstandingly delicious, she always has amusing commentary, and I feel that would be a useful trait if someone were standing in your kitchen all day making food.

What’s the single most memorable meal you’ve ever eaten?
That’s pretty hard to pick.  I’ll go with one key memorable one.  When I was 15, I spent the summer with a family in a tiny village in Alsace, France.  At one point we went over to the grandmother’s house for homemade tarte flambé cooked in her grandmother’s clay oven.  It was one of the first time’s I’d been abroad and I’d never realized food could taste that different from what I was used to in the U.S….and that fabulous. Continue reading

Martha’s Grub Match Pick: Lyon Hall

Our second contender in the Washington D.C. Grub match is Martha Bowen, international relations guru and future ambassador to Indonesia. Her pick is Lyon Hall, a hotspot of homemade mustard and cured meats. Here’s more from Martha, including why you should never underestimate the power of a good bathroom:

lyon hallIf you could eat only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Tomatoes. Raw, California-fresh with just a little salt, drenched in olive oil, sidling up to some glorious cheese. I love them.

Do you have any food pet peeves?
People who won’t try new foods.

You’re headed to a deserted island to live on grass and coconut milk–what’s your last meal before you go?
Carnitas made by Vince. (Editor’s note: Vince is Martha’s significant other and possible Grub Match Secret Weapon.)

Have you ever worked at a restaurant?
Yes, several, but only in national parks – Mt. Rainier in Washington State and Denali in Alaska. So I only really understand serving to tourists, where you have to be able to talk like a park ranger while serving up ridiculous quantities of clam chowder. Continue reading

Mignon’s Grub Match Pick: Bayou Bakery

bayou bakeryGrub Match is back, and this time we’re rumbling in a new city. ‘Tis the season of Presidents Day and inaugural balls, so we’re bringing the ruckus to the nation’s capital where three feisty female contenders are ready to duke it out over which restaurant will take home the D.C. Grub Match title. First up is elementary school teacher Mignon Miller, with her favorite outpost of Big Easy flavor, Bayou Bakery. Will her midwestern sweetness and spicy taste in restaurants knock out the competition? Here’s more from Mignon:

If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Definitely cheese, or possibly ice cream.  Or even better, cheese ice cream!

Have you ever worked at a restaurant?
I used to sling garlicky breadsticks from a basket to customers at Fazoli’s fast food Italian chain during high school.  Later, I specialized in spilling drinks on kids at their own birthday parties when I waitressed at a country club in Ohio. Continue reading

Grub Match: Brooklyn Brunch Showdown

brunch contendersOne storm was brewing in the west, and another was brewing between the three contenders in the Brooklyn Brunch Showdown. “Please,” one contender whispered to me off the record, “bring on these brunch amateurs.” But despite some brash displays of confidence, it was shaping up as a Grub Match far too close for anyone to call. In this Olympic season of eating, would Peaches, Beast or Café Luluc take home the gold? We were about to find out. Continue reading

Eric’s Grub Match Pick, Beast

Eric's Grub Match Pick

Chicken = Grub Match secret weapon

Our final contender in the Brooklyn Brunch Showdown is smooth operator and chicken whisperer, Eric Lidman. He explained to us the beauty of potato salad and why he (and his dog) consider Beast in Prospect Heights a true neighborhood gem. Here’s more from Eric:

You’re headed to a deserted island to live on grass and coconut milk–what’s your last meal before you go? Full breakfast—eggs, bacon, cheese, fresh bread with butter and preserves, cheese, fruit, yogurt, cheese … breakfast, it’s not just for, um, breakfast anymore.

You’ve come into uncountable gobs of money—who do you hire as your personal chef? Batali, if I had to choose…though I’d resurrect Julia Child, if at all possible…

What’s the single most memorable meal you’ve ever eaten? Dinner, October 2011, Adour at the St. Regis Hotel … lobster bisque, beef cap bordelaise with bone marrow, poached rhubarb with yogurt cream and strawberries, all washed down with a 1964 French cabernet …I almost passed out when I finished.

Have you ever worked at a restaurant? Burger King, for 2 shifts. I was fired for inadvertently closing the burger steamer lid on my supervisor’s hand. Continue reading

Casey’s Grub Match Pick, Café Luluc

Casey's Grub Match Pick

Cute baby = Grub Match secret weapon

This week’s pick for the Brooklyn Brunch Battle comes from sports development exec, supermom and peanut butter aficionado Casey Romany. Café Luluc, in Carroll Gardens, won her heart with its “simple, reliable deliciousness.” Here’s more from Casey on how one brunches in style, even with a baby on board.

Have you ever worked at a restaurant? Three food service experiences.  I worked at my uncle’s fish store on Friday’s when I was 15 selling fish fry. My family did not appreciate the incredible fish stank that lingered after I got home.  When I was in high school I worked at Brueggers Bagels; I will love bagels forever.  And in college I was a waitress at an Irish pub, but I barely made enough tips to cover my parking expenses.

Do you have any food pet peeves? When a restaurant does not have decaf coffee…there are a few Brooklyn Brunch spots out there that have no love for the caffeine free!

Continue reading

Melinda’s Grub Match Pick: Peaches

Melinda's Grub Match PickNew Yorkers are not only notoriously opinionated, but also stalwart in their efforts to raise weekend brunch to a higher art form. This month’s grub match has three Brooklyners squaring off over their favorite neighborhood brunch spots. In the Borough of Fortitude and Fisticuffs, the match promises to be a fiery one.

Our first contender is Texan belle and pickle expert Melinda Evans, and her brunch pick is Peaches, a haven of Southern flavor in Bed-Stuy. Here’s more from Melinda:

You’re headed to a deserted island to live on grass and coconut milk–what’s your last meal before you go? A seriously Southern spread that includes real BBQ: brisket, chopped beef, stuffed baked potatoes (fully loaded), potato salad, white bread soaked in BBQ sauce, pickles – lots of pickles. For dessert – an ice cold key lime pie. With a spiked Tiger Woods (my husband’s name for an Arnold Palmer) to wash it all down.

Do you have any food pet peeves? I have a drink pet peeve. I find it incredibly difficult to find a properly iced drink in NYC. When I order a soda (and yes, I order sodas Bloomberg), I want it to be heavy with ice. I want the glass to be sweating with the effort of keeping my drink cold. I want the absolute bottom to be as cold as the top. I want to stick my straw anywhere and be properly refreshed. A few cubes floating on top does not an iced drink make.  Continue reading

Grub Match: Tri-borough Showdown

“I expected to be disappointed in one, and I was. The other one I expected to like, and was disappointed in that one, too. Oh wait, is this the part where I’m supposed to be nice?”

That was the kind of feisty, go-for-the-jugular attitude evidenced in our three Grub Match contenders before the match had even begun. Monisha, Marie and Roger had gathered to defend the honor of their own restaurant picks and discuss the merits and shortcomings of the other contenders’ choices. The sun was hot. The beer was cold. They looked ready to rumble.

ready to rumble

Let’s get this match started…. Continue reading

Marie’s Grub Match Pick: Taverna Kyclades

marie's grub match pickOur final fierce contender in this month’s Grub Match is Marie Argeris. A seasoned New Yorker, Marie was torn between many NYC favorites but decided to go with “her people” at Taverna Kyclades. Here’s more from Marie:

What is one item that is always in your refrigerator? Feta cheese, preferably imported from Greece and purchased in Astoria where they have the real deal out of a barrel.

You’re on death row and they’re warming up the chair—what’s your final meal? I don’t think they put limits on a last meal, so this will be la grande bouffe:

Appetizers: Greek country salad, grilled octopus, calamari, fried formela cheese, taramasalata, tyrokafteri, spanakopita, tyropita, two dozen oysters sampled from east/west coasts, stuffed quahog

Entree: Maine lobster, Dungeness Crab, lamb chops (Greek style), lemon potatoes, vleeta greens, some mushrooms I once had in Dali, China

Dessert: Dark chocolate covered caramels with sea salt, galactoboureko, blackberry pie with ice cream Continue reading