Thursday, September 11, 2014

Deep Thoughts #106 - Special Topical How Could We Possibly Ever Forget?! Edition

Did the O.D. greens hanging flags off of bridges and distracting drivers today get the courage to do that by eating Freedom Fries for lunch?

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Deep Thoughts #105

Is this the one Republican who gets that his party, hurtling toward irrelevancy, must now embrace honest-to-Darwin change we can believe in?

Friday, September 05, 2014

Deep Thoughts #104

(I only just started watching Mad Men recently.) We're supposed to root for Don Draper—but how can you root for someone who's so—Republican?

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Black Market

Last Wednesday night we completed the Ed Rudisell trifecta and finally got around to trying Black Market. Amy was pretty well seduced by the Devour Downtown menu that included a no-bake chocolate oatmeal cookie for dessert, and even though we didn’t do the planning very well, we pretty much had our pick of seats in the place when we arrived at almost half past seven. I didn’t ask what the building all the way at the far north end of Mass Ave used to be, but Mr. Rudisell and company did well to retain the brick walls and hardwood floors when they built it out into a restaurant.

On another night, we might not have been able to choose our seats, but that night we got to pick between individual seating on the edges of the room, bar seating, and a communal space in the middle that brought to mind eating around the long tables in the conference room, back in the ol’ Clearwater days. They’ve done as much as they can with a small space, as they have also done with Siam Square and Rook—though there is something charming about Black Market that I’ve never felt at Siam Square, and did not feel the one time we tried Rook. I’m not sure what that something charming is…but it’s there.

But enough of that preliminary crap…we need to move directly to the food, because this was one of the best out-to-dinner meals I have eaten in a long time. When we picked Jackson up at my parents’ house after we ate, they asked us where we had gone, and then what kind of place it was; and I had a hard time describing exactly what they’re aiming for at Black Market. It’s not like the other Rudisell joints, which serve specifically Asian food. The phrase I used to describe it to my parents was “contemporary American.” It’s one of those places where the menu changes regularly to take advantage of both local ingredients and foods that are in season, and it’s widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in the city.

After some hemming and hawing, Amy selected the Devour Downtown menu, three courses for $30, which started with a salad of Israeli couscous, blueberry, and melon, with sweet basil vinaigrette and goat cheese. She liked the goat cheese—no surprise there—but seemed indifferent to the rest of it. I ordered from the regular menu and started with a salad of Chioggia beets, cucumber, and feta, with lemon vinaigrette ($9). I managed to overlook the green beans and mint that were also listed on the menu, so those were a nice surprise when the salad came, as was a foundation of hardy chopped romaine. I had never experienced Chioggia beets before, so I looked them up after we got home, and discovered that it’s an Italian beet with red and white stripes on the inside. I don’t recall the thick slices in my salad being striped—which maybe means they were overcooked a bit, but they were still sweet and delicious, a nice counterpoint to the tart vinaigrette and loud, creamy feta cheese.

Amy was less pleased with her second course, described on the menu as Garden Lemongrass-Chicken Broth and Confit with Sweet Corn and Carrots, but which in actuality was more along the lines of glorified chicken soup. I went for the pulled pork sandwich, on a brioche bun from Amelia’s, with mustard-vinegar sauce and two sides ($14). The cornbread with serrano butter was a no-brainer for one of the sides, but I was torn between cole slaw and three-cheese macaroni for the other. In the end, the mac and cheese fiend in me won out, and I was rewarded with a creamy helping of surprisingly well-cooked macaroni and cheese (at least one of the three was goat cheese, but that was the only one I could identify). The cornbread was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, topped with a wee dab of serrano butter that was intensely pepper-flavored, but not aggressively spicy. It reminded me of the Rico’s Hot and Easy cheese we used to sling on the nachos, back in the GC Eastgate days.

Does the sandwich all by itself deserve its own paragraph? I think it just might, and yet I don’t even know where to begin. The airy, perfectly grilled brioche bun? The giant mound of pulled pork, already sauced, yet not so much that it obscured the smokiest smoke flavor I think I’ve ever encountered? The way it was served halfway open-faced, like they knew even before you did that to attempt to pick it up with your hands and eat it like a sandwich was simply out of the question? That mustard-vinegar sauce, which was just as briny as its appellation would lead you to believe, yet also sweet and a little bit smoky itself? The excellent bread, which had grill marks, but wasn’t burnt, and which retained a chewy breadiness even after being sat upon by a giant pile of barbecued pork? I suspect that from this day forward, any barbecued pulled pork that I ever eat will be held up against this sandwich—and probably found wanting.

There was no third course for me, but Amy got the aforementioned chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookie with peanut butter mousse and raspberry sauce. It looked more like two lumps of brown granola to me, but she seemed to like them; and the peanut butter mousse was admirably peanut buttery.

I don’t know what else to tell you. I’m not sure there’s anything left to say—although maybe it’s worth going back to what I said near the beginning, that Black Market has had the reputation, pretty much since the day it opened, of being one of the best restaurants in the city. It’s definitely the best meal I’ve had in a restaurant since we ate at Bluebeard a couple of years ago. Is it better than Bluebeard? I’m not sure I’d go that far—but I’m not sure I wouldn’t, either. They’re really close. I still haven’t tried R Bistro or Recess, or a couple of the newer big deals, like Cerulean and Late Harvest Kitchen. The best restaurant in the city is probably one of the six—and Bluebeard and Black Market set the bar very, very high.

922 Massachusetts Avenue