Sunday, January 5, 2014

Cross Country for Crabcakes, Episode Two: In Which Two Hungry Foodie Geeks Seek Out Breakfast

In our last episode, I regaled y'all with the tale of day one of our pilgrimage to Lexi's favorite seafood restaurant in the entire universe. The next morning, we woke up ravenous, and went in search of something yummy for breakfast.

Initially we wanted to try the venerable Florida Avenue Grill, renowned for its history and reputation as the "oldest soul food restaurant in the world". Sadly, they're closed Mondays, so we searched the neighborhood for another possibility. Just a few blocks away, past ramshackle vining roses and lines of brick row houses in varying states of benign neglect, we stumbled upon the Blind Dog Cafe at Darnell's.

Delicious breakfast goodness located at 944 Florida Street, Washington, DC
The blind dog for which the cafe was named wasn't there (every dog has his day off, right?), but yummy breakfast sandwiches and hot coffee certainly were. Usually the Blind Dog's breakfast sandwiches are served on croissants, but that day their toaster was out, so they used crusty French bread instead.
Bacon & Goat Cheese (foreground), House Roasted Pepper Pimento Cheese (background)
Lexi had the House Roasted Pepper Pimento Cheese while I had the Bacon and Goat Cheese. Both come with a fluffy egg frittata snug in the middle. Lexi's was gooey and cheesy, with plenty of roasted red peppers lending a sweet-roasted-spicy flavor. The bacon on mine was thick and meaty, well-balanced by the creamy pungency of the goat cheese. The French bread worked well: it was sturdy enough to hold up to the sloppiness of the sandwich ingredients, but also had a nice soft middle. I actually suspect either sandwich on a croissant might have been too greasy, but as they were, they were a great start to the day.

For most of the rest of the day, Lexi and I tooled around DC, checking out all kinds of stuff in and around the National Mall. In the Smithsonian National Museum of American History we came across this:

Oyster plates from the mid-19th century
Humans have been eating oysters for millennia, from China to Rome to the Americas. Always readily available to anyone dwelling reasonably close to a coastline, with the advent of refrigeration oysters could be transported further inland. In America the demand for them traveled westward with human expansion; the plates above once graced a wealthy diner's table. Note the cockle-shaped depressions, presumably to hold a little butter or mayonnaise for dipping.

After awhile, Lexi headed off to catch up on a bit of work, while I tooled around some more, visiting the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, and all sorts of places in between. After a few hours our stomachs rumbled again, so with a few text messages and a short trek to the Penn Quarter, I ended up at Poste brasserie, where Lexi had set up shop.

A game of Fluxx, a DC tourist map, and a glass of chilled wine to start the evening
Next to the Hotel Monaco, Poste is tucked away in an open courtyard inside a warm stone bastion of a building. The courtyard itself is lovely: the building surrounding it is deep, its walls thick, so the courtyard itself is very quiet, despite being in the middle of an intensely busy city. Inside, the yard is ringed with containers and raised beds full of all kinds of culinary plants grown by the head chef, ranging from seasonal fresh herbs to veggies to figs and more. While we were there, the courtyard itself was set aside for a reserve party; perched at our window seats at the bar, Lexi and I could watch as the staff and chefs assembled what must have been one of their Poste Roasts, though we weren't there long enough to find out for sure. And at any rate we were too busy enjoying a nosh of our own.

The feast: saffron mussels, salted buttery rolls, pommes frites

I'm a bit ashamed to say that I don't remember what the wine was, since I was too busy eating the food. All I recall is that it was anything other than a chardonnay (since I utterly loathe chardonnay), it was chilled and white and went well with the salty meaty saffrony things we were eating. See below.

French bread slices and buttery salted rolls
Mussels in white wine with saffron and mustard
Mollusks don't stand a chance against Gwen's appetite
Being from the Pacific Northwest I've had plenty of mussels prepared plenty of ways, but I'd never had them with saffron before. The mussels were as meaty as I expected, and the mustard/saffron combination not only provided color but also stood up to the heartiness of the mussels' flavor. I'd definitely have mussels this way again. As for the pommes frites, they were good, though not outstanding; after so much rich food it was hard to finish them.

Nonetheless we left quite satisfied, with full bellies and happy taste buds. We trundled back off to our hotel for a good night's rest, looking forward to another day of culinary adventures....


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