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Dining at the Navy Yard – Lo Spiedo

loIf you had told me a few years ago that there would be fine dining at the Navy Yard, I would have scoffed at you. Not because I don’t think that it’s a place in the city with great potential, because it actually has unlimited potential to be a destination spot for visitors and residents. But to me, the Navy Yard was where my husband used to work. On a ship. Which sat in the water. Sure, people work there, but the height of dining at the Navy Yard was going to the cafeteria at Urban Outfitters, or the occasional food truck day here and there. Then the new buildings came and the pharmaceutical companies followed. Then came the hotel. And now here we are, a Navy Yard that has a Marc Vetri restaurant. I’d been wanting to go to Lo Spiedo for awhile, but I couldn’t conceive of dragging the husband there. So when M asked to go out to dinner on a random weeknight, I suggested it on a whim. Funny thing is, she was thinking the same thing. So we hopped in the car and headed down good ‘ol Broad St. For those of you unfamiliar with the Navy Yard, Lo Spiedo is right where the front entrance is, just on the left. There is a little parking lot, but also plenty of parking on the street. It was truly bizarre going into the Navy Yard, after hours, without needing special employee access.  lodrinkIt was fairly early, and because it was an impromptu decision, we didn’t have a reservation. The place was fairly packed though, with a heavy happy hour crowd from the companies next door, but we luckily got a table. M ordered the Geisha cocktail, a freakishly strong mix of La Colombe Different Drum Rum, orange, and an actual little rose. I would have been passed out on the floor if I drank one of these. I had a house-made ginger beer which was tart yet delightful. lotartarI am fairly terrible when it comes to ordering food. Too many choices clouds my decisions. So one of my favorite things to do is ask our server for their favorites and their recommendations. This beef tartare with bagnetto verde was not one of her recommendations, but was the only thing that we ordered that wasn’t on her list. The idea of raw beef isn’t necessarily something that would have appealed to me in the past, but after going to Korea last year and eating some amazing raw sliced beef, now I’m totally up for trying some rawness. This was good, but not particularly exciting or interesting, so it’s not something I’d have to try again. This spot is a small plates restaurant, so we ended up getting a bunch of things and sharing, just the way I prefer to eat, where I get to try a lot of different things.  lopastaSo all of these items were recommended by our adorable tattooed server: the spit-roasted vegetables with romesco and sicilian olive oil, the spit-roasted octopus, and the rignette pasta with macellaio bolognese. Man, that girl knows what she’s talking about. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything with romesco sauce before, but damn, I loved it. It was savory and sweet at the same time and a perfect accompaniment for the roasted veggies. The octopus was perfectly cooked and didn’t need any flavoring at all. It was like a really well-cooked steak, meaty and substantive, really quite great. Those two dishes were actually cooked on the spit, as per the name of the restaurant, which means the spit. But my favorite dish of the night was the rignette pasta. I don’t know what rignette is, but it’s long and squiggly edged pasta, chewy, with plenty of surface area for whatever delicious sauce its cooked with, and this bolognese was really awesome. To me, truly a perfect dish on all levels. I cleaned the plate and could have eaten more. Overall, a great meal with a great friend. I’m excited to come back and try other dishes on the menu. Looks like I’ll be back at the Navy Yard some more!  

Lo Spiedo on Urbanspoon

Vernick

For M’s birthday this year, we went to Vernick. They offered to seat us at the kitchen so we could get a free show, so we said sure! I actually love watching people cook my food. But I always forget that it’s going to be super hot there! But we still enjoyed the show! They started us off with a complimentary little amuse bouche – a pea soup with some chili oil on top. A fun and tasty start!
vernicktunaWe started off with some tuna poke, served with macadamia nuts in a sweet soy dressing. This was a perfect combo of cold tuna with sweet and umami flavors. I’ve never had poke, so I have no idea how poke-ish this poke was, but it was darn tasty. It was obvious, from the very start, how fresh and high quality all the ingredients here were.

vernickbroccWe wanted to get at least some veggies, to feign caring about our health, so we went with the broccoli rabe, which was simply roasted with chili and aged pecorino. I need to eat more roasted veggies!
vernickravioliOur last shared small dish was the ravioli with braised duck and green beans. Another great dish. Three pieces of delicate ravioli with super moist duck. The green beans were still nice and firm. There’s nothing appealing about soggy green beans!
vernickvealM got the oven-roasted veal loin, served with Israeli couscous and spring beans with a pesto sauce. He loved it! The entree portions here were surprisingly large.
vernickbassI got the grilled black sea bass, served with tender broccoli and a fire-roasted tomato sauce. Yum! The fish is cooked really nicely, with the skin on, and the skin is nice and crispity. The tomato sauce is surprisingly flavorful and works well with the flaky fish. It’s a delicate fish, but the accompanying sauce is strong and pungent.
vernickdatecakeWe definitely wanted to try dessert so we asked our server what to get and he said “cardamom cake!” so we said sure! Listen here people. This is one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. It’s just the whole package. It’s a roasted date cake with orange cardamom toffee sauce, a scoop of coconut gelato, and topped with a candied slice of orange. Man, the cake is warm and moist with just enough hint of that exotic cardamom flavor, the gelato is just the right amount of cold. It just works! I could eat this every day. Our experience at Vernick was just wonderful. All of it, the food, the show, and the service. It certainly deserves all its raves!
Vernick Food & Drink on Urbanspoon

Barbuzzo – Birthday Dinner

When people ask me for restaurant recommendations, one place I regularly mention is Barbuzzo. It’s just great. And I can’t possibly imagine anyone not liking it. The food is superb, the place itself is adorable, and it’s just a lovely experience. My only reservation would be for large groups. Barbuzzo is just too small to be good for big groups. But it’d be perfect for a romantic date, girls night out, or dinner with the parents. Anyhoo, my last visit there was for my birthday. The cheese board! As a self-proclaimed cheese wuss, I’m sometimes reticent to go for cheese plates. But hey, it’s a new year, a new me, and I’m going to be more experimental, especially with cheese. With nothing overly of the blue variety on the plate, I enjoyed everything. I want more cheese boards!
I’m a sucker for octopus, so whenever I see it on a menu, there’s a good chance I’m getting it. This is the grilled mediterranean octopus salad with sopressata, fingerling potato, taggiasca olive, roasted peppers, cucumbers, herbs, and lemon. Whoo hoo! When cooked well, especially grilled, octopus is super tender. It gets a bad “rubbery” rap because of how many times it can be cooked poorly. This octopus was tender and smoky, slightly tart from the lemon, and rich with the roasted peppers and herbs. 
We thought it would be fun to try one of the pizzas, so we picked one of the very few that had meat! Here’s the prosciutto pizza with roasted grapes, gorgonzola, walnuts, arugula, and vin cotto. Perhaps the sound of grapes and walnuts and arugula on a pizza sounds odd, but to the tastebuds, it’s great.  
I don’t recall this exact dish, but it’s a strozzapretti pasta with duck, I think? This was my favorite dish of the night. It looks so simple… just some pasta with some shreads of meat in it. But dang, I could not stop eating it. The pasta was chewy and buttery and the duck was tender, fatty, and had a nice mild flavor. Oh it was so darn good!
And you have to end every Barbuzzo meal (heck, every meal!) with the salted caramel budino. It’s famous for a reason. So just be sure to order it. You’ll be glad you did!

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