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Trip Report Restaurants of DC: A Gourmand's Tour (not short)

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We spent Thanksgiving week in Washington D.C. with friends who LOVE restaurants and assembled an enviable set of Open Table reservations for us. While I do not recommend eating this much in the space of 5 days, we tried to work it off with some formidably long walks, logging over 30 miles!

Our culinary stops:

Thai Tanic, on 14th Street near Logan Circle, http://www.thaitanic.us/thaitanic1/home.php
We love Thai food, and find Thai Tanic to be a solid choice in that category. It's casual, inexpensive, and offers gracious service along with respectable versions of all the Thai classics.

Rasika West End on New Hampshire Ave at M Street, http://www.rasikarestaurant.com/westend/
We had lunch at Rasika's Penn Quarter flagship last year, which is always excellent, and found the new West End location to be equally terrific, but with fanciful, over-the-top decor as an extra added bonus. The fried spinach salad is not to be missed as it could possibly change your life, but the smoked lentils, korma and cauliflower were outstanding.

Blue Duck Tavern, in the Hyatt at 24th and M Streets, http://www.blueducktavern.com/gallery/blueduck/home.html
This is another entry in the seasonal/artisanal/locally and sustainably sourced category, with an intriguing "open pantry" kitchen that guests walk through on their way to the dining room. The house-infused orange vodka was my personal hit of the night; others at our table loved the apple pie, the mushroom tart and the crab cakes. My vegetarian risotto was excellent, but perhaps I am jaded by having seen this kind of menu executed as well or better elsewhere. That said, I would not hesitate to recommend Blue Duck.

The Source, at the Newseum on Pennsylvania Ave, http://www.wolfgangpuck.com/restaurants/fine-dining/3941
This is Wolfgang Puck's first foray into DC, and it is a winner. I was very taken with the second-floor dining room, which manages to be clean, modern and warm all at the same time and has enormous windows. The lunch menu is, of course, heavy on the Asian-fusion style Puck pioneered, which I happen to love, and includes a nice prix-fixe option that won't bust your wallet or your gut. We enjoyed Drunken Noodles with Shrimp, a Crab Salad sandwich, spicy tuna tartare, hot and sour squash soup and something stir-fried in lettuce cups (tofu?), all fantastic. Great service, too.

Oyamel, on 7th Street in Penn Quarter, http://www.oyamel.com. I may be the only person in the world who does not like Oyamel. This was my second visit, and nothing about it hits the spot for me. The food is acceptable, but it sounds better on the menu than it tastes and it leans heavily on things like fresh guacamole (made table-side), house-made salsa, and simple small plates that should be excellent and here are merely good. So you won't hate the food; in fact, the poblano shrimp are great. If you have enough of the too-sweet margaritas, perhaps the pomegranate version with "salt air", you will probably leave happy. But skip the queso fundido and the fries in poblano sauce, as no amount of alcohol can redeem them.

Poste, in the Hotel Monaco in Penn Quarter, http://www.postebrasserie.com. I have only ever had drinks here, but boy, do they make great drinks, in an elegant bar with a cozy back room. The signature Blue State of Mind (gin, St. Germain, lime, rosemary, absinthe) is delicious, the Negroni is a knockout, and I loved the house-infused basil vodka. I will insist on dining here on our next visit, as the menu and dining room look great.

Zaytinya, on 9th Street at G, http://www.zaytinya.com. This modern mediterranean place is, like Oyamel and Jaleo and several others, part of the Jose Andres restaurant empire. We only had bar snacks here, and I found them perfectly fine: roasted red pepper puree, a selection of olives and some fresh house-made flatbread hit the spot with a dry red wine from Greece and cocktails, including a lemon-verbena infused vodka. (The theme of the week was infused vodkas, if you hadn't noticed.) The dining room is lovely, service is warm and attentive, and I think most anyone would like the well-executed mediterranean small plates.

Now for a word about some fine food purveyors in DC:

Eastern Market Grocery, in the historic Eastern Market on Capitol Hill, http://www.easternmarket-dc.org/default.asp?contentID=45
We've ordered fresh ravioli from this place two years in a row, and they're great. 4 Cheese, Mushroom, Gorgonzola Walnut, and Butternut Squash were this year's picks, all delish. Eastern Market is well worth a visit in general, for the indoor and outdoor food and produce stalls, the fresh meats, the baked goods, and the venerable Market Lunch for, well, you know. We also picked up a pumpkin custard pie and an apple pie from an Amish vendor, both excellent.

Cowgirl Creamery, on F street between 9th and 10th, http://www.cowgirlcreamery.com. This is a California cheese shop's DC outpost. It's not inexpensive, and you can find some of the same varieties of cheese at, say, Whole Foods, but the uber-knowledgeable staff that will guide your choices and offer tastes freely are worth the freight, IMO.

Pitango Gelato, locations in Penn Quarter, Logan Circle and elsewhere, http://pitangogelato.com. This is a DC/Baltimore area chain that to this gelato-lover ranks up there with the best I've had. This trip, the Cardamom edged out last year's fave, the Sicilian Almond, but the Black Tea was a contender and the Dark Chocolate Chili Sorbet, with its subtle kick, had its fans, too. Treat yourself.

Whole Foods, near Logan Circle. Yeah, I know, but does your Whole Foods have a Tea Cookie Bar? Mine doesn't, so I was blown away. At least 15 varieties of cookies are on display, we tried about half and they were all shockingly good. Better than your Italian bakery? No. But it's a Tea Cookie Bar! Mangia.

Whew. That list looks even worse than I'd feared--we fressed. And walked. I hope someone finds it helpful.

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