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Hill Country BBQ

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Hill Country BBQOK, it's been awhile since I wrote. For the 3 of you still checking or on RSS, I'm going to write when I can, mostly reviewing restaurants I've been to.

First up, Hill Country BBQ. What red-blooded American doesn't love BBQ? A couple of friends and I went their last month for Restaurant week. First, the bar was great. I know it's odd to say, but it's good to have an ice cold beer. Some places simply have draft beer cool or slightly below room temperature. Shiner Bock here is ice cold. Good to go down with the dinner of mostly meat.

Which brings us to the main deal. For Restaurant Week, the offer was the Pitmaster, cornbread, a dessert, and a jar of Shiner or a soda.  All for $35.  Most places don't include the drink, so that was a slightly better deal. Yeah, I know sometimes when you look at it, RW isn't ideal for some or certain places. For me, I don't generally order dessert, but I also try to go to places I haven't been or have great deals. This met that standard.

The Pitmaster itself is Lean Brisket, one Pork Sparerib, one Beef Sparerib, and a quarter chicken (white or dark). The brisket was tender and juicy. Maybe a bit more fat than I prefer, but overall good.  I think for the most part either you like ribs or you don't.  Both the pork and beef versions for good, but not the best I had. The chicken was a disappointment. Maybe it's because I prefer white meat and got dark, but it was just not seasoned properly. Cooked well, but if it's flavorless, it does not matter.  Also included wtih the Pitmaster were 2 sides. I got the Mac & Cheese and Confetti Cole Slaw.  Both were excellent and better than I usually have.  The cornbread was a bit dry, but the ancho honey butter that accompanies it improves it to the point I didn't care it was dry.  The dessert I got was the banana pudding. It reminded me of childhood. Nice and cool and not too sweet. A very good way to end the meal.

Overall, I would say the experience was worth it. There were other things on the menu that I need to try like the chops or the Kruez sausage.  I probably won't go back too often, but if you are in the mood for some BBQ or cold Shiner, go there.
As I'm sure you have heard, John Allen Muhammad, the DC Sniper, was executed yesterday.  And frankly, I'm glad.  Before some of you think I'm a death penalty supporter, let me tell you I'm not.  Indifference is the best description for me.  I have not supported it, nor am I against it.

In the case of Muhammad however, I feel this is justice deserved.  Crime occurs every day, every minute.  Many times there is a reason, a motive.  Then sometimes, like here, there isn't a real explanation.  Crimes happen because of opportunity, need, emotion.  Only opportunity applied in the DC Sniper case and that's a stretch, since the opportunity was that anyone who went out in public was a target.

This series of crimes paralyzed the DC region for weeks.  While I did not personally know any of the victims, the locations of most of the crimes occurred in or near the neighborhood I grew up, worked, or frequented.  Most disturbing for me was October 14, 2002 when Linda Franklin was killed outside the Home Depot in the Seven Corners area of Falls Church, Virginia.  I was at work nearby and drove by there just an hour before she was killed.  During the spree, I had co-workers from the Philadelphia area ask me the best way to drive to avoid the sniper when they were headed to Virginia.  I worried for my parents, brother, and sister who still lived in my childhood neighborhood.

When Muhammad, and his accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, were finally captured, we could all rest a little better.  With his execution last night, it seems we can all rest even smoother now.  Sometimes the death penalty may feel right, even if you have no opinion.

charliepalmer.jpgSo in case you did not know, it is Restaurant Week in DC again.  At $20.09 for lunch for $35.09 for dinner, diners can enjoy or sample select menus from participating establishments.  But even at the discount rate, $35.09 is a lot to spend, though you get a 3 course meal.

The Sports Freak, a co-worker of his, and I went to Charlie Palmer's near the Capitol earlier in the week.  None of us had dined there before, so it seemed like a good place to try.  We got there about 15 minutes early so after letting them know we were there, we settled at the bar for a pre-dinner drink.  Value is not what you expect there, as I ordered a vodka tonic that was more tonic than vodka and cost $10.

Dinner was better.  After we placed our orders, we were given an amuse-bouche of tiny shrimp ceviche.  Served in a metal "Asian soup spoon", there was the right balance of acid and seasonings.  The tiny shrimp came in twos and marinated in lime juice and cilantro.  Very good start.  For appetizer, I had the cold Virginia Corn Soup.  The cream based soup was light and refreshing.  While they put a little Maryland blue crab in the middle, I think the soup would have done just as well without it.  The others had heirloom tomato salads with goat cheese.  Two big slices of tomato and a mix wild greens, they reported it to be good.

On to the main entrees.  All three of us had the roasted beef sirloin.  The sirloin itself was very good.  Tender and flavorful, it was a good portion of meat.  I had ordered mine medium and it might have been a bit on the rare side, but still good.  The accompanying carmelized shallots were excellent, but how can carmelized onions not be good?  The potatoes, not so much.  Boulanger potatoes were sliced thin, but surprisingly tasted slightly raw, even though they seemed througly cooked.  It could have used a little more salt as well.  We also ordered a side of zuchinni and squash for the table.  That was great was shavings of parmesean cheese on top.

Dessert was possibly the big let down of the meal.  The Sports Freak and I both had the peach cobbler.  Baked and served in a ramakin with a dollop of frozen vanilla custard, it was very runny.  That might have been the downfall for the dessert as being baked in the small vessel instead a big batch made the crust finish quickly.  The peaches were still very firm, almost as if they were just warmed or quickly boiled and the liquid never had a chance to bake out of the dish.  The co-worker had ordered the Pennsylvania berry soup, which was a raspberry base served with panna cotta and sorbet.  He said it was very good, but he is partial to raspberries.

In all, it was a very good meal.  The restaurant decor is very bright and modern and you feel that it is very new, yet the service was established.  It is in the bottom of a fairly new building which opened earlier in the decade.  I would go back for Restaurant Week again, but would find it hard to go on the regular menu on my own dime.  The pricing was very high, but for a special meal or business, it would be on my list of places to go.

2Amys.jpgOn a recent weekend, I had dinner at three very different establishments.

First on Friday night, The Sports Freak and I went to 2 Amy's.  We wanted to see what the fuss was all about.  The lauded restaurant is off Wisconsin Ave, just north of the National Cathedral.  The lines were long and we had ot wait about half an hour.  During that time, we saw a few carryout orders, including a woman who had 8-12 boxes of pizza, so we thought we were in for a treat.

Unfortunately, things did not turn out so well.  We wanted to start with an appetizer of smoked salmon bruschetta or something like that.  I'm not sure exactly what was ordered because we never received it.  The pizzas came surprisingly quickly, so we decided not to question the missing plate until it showed up on our bill.

I had ordered the Abruzesse, which might have been a mistake.  No mozzarella, but pecorino cheese, the pizza seemed oversalted.  Not to the extreme, but a bit too much.  The meatballs seemed very dry.  The best part of the pizza was the crust.  Light and chewy, it is what I look for in pizza.  TSF had a traditional Neapolitan and reported he was not impressed.  He did not go into details, but said that he had had better Neapolitan elsewhere.

The best part of my meal might have been the pint of Wehenstephan Dunkel beer.  It was crisp and refreshing.  At least I got a little buzz before my disappointing dinner.  Maybe we got to 2 Amy's on an off night.

On to Saturday, I went to Z-Burger again with the Sports Freak. We hit the Tenleytown location at around 8:30 PM and it was virtually empty. We each ordered a burger and shared some fries and onion rings. Like all the "burger only" joints in the area, they only cook their burgers well-done. And because of that, it tastes much like the rest of them. If I was looking for a burger, I might not stop at Z-Burger unless I was in the neighborhood. Five Guys does just as good of a job, and I can find them in most neighborhoods now.

The fries also mimicked their competition, offering little difference. Where they win are onion rings. The rings appeared to be fresh made, not frozen. My only complaint on them would be that the onions were a bit too soft and so was the batter coating. I prefer my onions crisp. The coating might have been an issue because they were the last of the 3 items I tasted. Also on the menu, which we did not try were cheesesteaks and milkshakes. The Sports Freak is a freak about cheesesteaks and vowed he'd be back to try them. I thought about a milkshake but I didn't want a heart attack that night and just didn't want one at 9 PM.
It's been awhile since I posted, but Culinary Couture, where Lemmonex, my blog-crush, writes, reminded me of possibly the worst meal ever.

I am an easy going guy.  My friends will tell you I have few places or people I openly criticize except maybe the way the Redskins are run.  But this early scene of spring we've gotten reminded me of the Georgetown Waterfront.  Unfortunately some pretty bad memories.

Cabana's may have served the worst meal I've ever had.  That's saying a bunch because my family was working poor.  Last summer, The Sports Freak and I headed over to Georgetown to see the scene.  On one night, we decided to dine at Cabana's for a change of pace.  We've walked by it in the past and thought the menu looked interesting, and this night decided to try it out.  Wow, what a mistake.

We were seated outside since it was summer.  That might have been our first clue since it was summer.  How could they have seats available at the peak of dinner service on a Friday night?  I started off with a Mojito.  It was completely watered down.  I actually wondered if they put any alcohol in it.

The entrees proved to be no saving grace.  I don't exactly recall what TSF had, but I think it was the Mexican Flag Enchiladas.  He was not happy about it and reported later that it just wasn't good.  I don't remember the details, but I remember he blasted it good.

I had ordered the Spanish Paella, "A Classic!", as they say on the menu.  The only thing classic about it might have been the age of the seafood.  Paella to me should be cooked in a pan and some of the rice should be crisp or almost burnt.  I know other places that serve it as part of tapas may not cook it to my liking, but they make up for it in quality.  Cabana's did not.  It felt like it was cooked in a pot over low heat quickly.  My family is from China so we don't turn down rice too often.  However this was a case where I had no problem doing so.  I decided to move on to just the proteins.

Not a good choice either.  The chicken was completely dry.  Forgivable if were the only mishap with the dish, but it didn't end there.  Chorizo, normally a flavorful sausage was tasteless and luke warm.  I think if they had thrown in thick slices of off the shelf pepperoni, they would have done better.  Finally the seafood.  I don't even know where to begin.  None of it seemed fresh.  I really mean that.  The mussels and scallops were extremely rubbery.  The calamari and shrimp were small, kind of like what you'd find at a grocery salad bar.  That is when it dawned on me.  Everything seemed to come out of a bag or a box.  Then they were all cooked separately, tossed into a pot for 2 minutes and doused with some chicken stock for what little flavor could be provided.

We decided to leave with both of us leaving at least half our dish.  This was very disappointing considering we had both been to Tony and Joe's in the past and Cabana's appears to be part of the same ownership.  Maybe that was their saving grace, that they could lose money since the sister restaurants were raking in the cash.  Ask me if I would go back to any restaurant and no matter how terrible it was, I would still push the good things about the place.  For Cabana's, a place I paid over $20 for a watered down drink and frozen seafood, is on the very short list of places I recommend not going to.

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