Sunday, June 10, 2012

Cheesetique (Shirlington location) - Arlington, VA

Today I really wasn’t all that hungry and was just craving a little snack.  I figured a little cheese and chacuterie plate from Cheesetique in Delray would be perfect.  Unfortunately, I got over to the Delray location only to find that they close at 6PM on Sunday.  Yes, I know….hence the reason you should always call first.  But even so, this gave me an excuse to check out this area called “Shirlington” that borders Arlington, as Cheesetique has a location there as well.

Shirlington definitely has some buzz, with a bunch of restaurants and bars crammed into a little 2 block area.  All of the restaurants here have outdoor seating, and at 7PM on a Sunday night, I didn’t see many open seats at any of the restaurants outside.  Great night for a little dinner on the veranda.

I popped into the bar and grab a stool there.  There was just one other gentleman sitting at the bar, and a few tables here and there seated inside the restaurant.  Bartenders name was Mark, and I ordered a glass of Cotes du Rhone.  Nothing crazy or over the top, and a decent glass of wine.  Was it worth $9?  Given the markup in restaurants in this area, sure.

From the menu tonight I went with the Select 5 board, meaning I pick a combination of 5 cheeses and meats.  My choices were the Lomo, Soppressata, and Creminelli Barolo for my meats.  All of them had different characteristics, and I wish I could tell you which was which in the picture, but for the life of me I can’t remember.  The one in the bottom left was a harder meat, where the one on the top center was a nice prosciutto style, and the one on the right was nice and soft with some good smokiness to it.  I’d order these same 3 again in a heartbeat.

For cheeses I went with the Beemster, which too was nice and smokey, and had a nice firm crumble to it.  This was extremely enjoyable.  For an old standby, I went with a Young Manchego, and as always, I really love this cheese!  Can you go wrong with Manchego?  I don't think so!

Accoutrement's with the board was some fresh baked bread from Lyon Bakery, New York flatbreads, membrillo, cornichons, grapes, a nice grainy mustard, and a jelly like substance. 

In short, quality products and good service from Mark behind the bar.  This area has a nice buzz, and I will definitely be back in the future.  Next stop will be the Carlyle I think!  Cheers!

Cheesetique - Shirlington
4056 Campbell Avenue
Arlington, VA  22206
Phone:  (703)933-8787

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Vermillion - Old Town Alexandria, VA

Well, I have taken it upon myself to make my Wednesday night the night to go out and have a good meal before I make the trek back to Jersey (assuming I am not teleworking from Jersey that week).  Tonight I decided to hit Vermillion in Alexandria, as it is just a few steps from "The Bistro South."

I sat down at the bar and was greeted by Alex, who has been my bartender before.  I ordered a glass of pinot noir, and he gave me 2 different options to "try before I buy."  Needless to say, I went the Burgundy route (2009 Jean-Michel Guillon), and was plenty happy with this.

I decided to try the tasting menu tonight, and I was very impressed.  First out was a canapé, with a pureed carrot of sorts I think.  Needless to say, this was a nice starter to wet my whistle.

Next course was a Softshell Crab BLT, that I thought was nice and creative.  The soft shells were fresh with nice flavors, though a bit on the watery side, but this happens.  This was served with a crisp smoked bacon, curly endive, 2 slices of delicious fried green tomato, and a whipped avocado. The flavors were succulent, and the preparation was very nice.  I would order this as an appetizer again in the future.

From here we went to today's Atlantic Fish selection, which was grouper, and this was by far my favorite item on the tasting menu.  This came with a perfect sized piece of crusted grouper, served over a bed of fresh market vegetables and bacon.  There were some other ingredients here as well, but I can't remember them off the top of my head.  Even so, this was very fresh, very light, and extremely delicious.  I could eat this a few times a week and never get bored!

For the steak course, I ordered a glass of cabernet (2009 Pellegrini “Cloverdale Ranch”).  This was a decent cabernet for a by the glass wine.  It was more new world and fruit forward, which is sometimes how I like them.  Tonight it hit the spot.

From here the next course was a Flat iron steak and this too was delicious.  Nice tender strips of flank steak with baked crespelle, spinach, Maitake mushrooms, and a truffle jus.  Aside from the steak, the highlight here for me was the Maitake shrooms.  The flavors were amazing, and they were cooked absolutely perfectly.

Finally for dessert was a piece of cheesecake with a pecan granola, fresh local rhubarb, and a sherry gastrique.  Though I am not a huge cheesecake fan, the flavors here were delicious, and it was a great way to close out the meal.

At the end of the day, this was a great meal, and a good value.  There were a lot of fresh flavors and ingredients, and it made for a nice meal.  As always, the service behind the bar was great, and this was Alex's 2nd to last night behind the bar before he heads to ChurchKey in DC.  I wish him the best, and will be sure to check the place out in the future.

Vermillion will be on the list for another glass of wine in the future, and as always I look forward to it.  Cheers!  -F. Scott

1120 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone:  703.684.9669