Friday, May 24, 2013

Bite of DC: Review

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Photo: 13 days and counting...BITE OF DC is on it's way and with it we'll be bringing you sunshine, a warm breeze, elite chefs, creative dishes, bottomless drinks, live entertainment and waterfront views...all of which mean that BITE is quickly shaping up to be THE outdoor culinary event of the spring season! So don't wait until the last minute, get your group tickets today!

We were fortunate enough to be gifted with two tickets to attend last weekend's Bite of DC.  Steuart Martens and his team put together an event that featured a variety of restaurants.  It has laid a good foundation and has great potential to grow into a go-to foodie event in DC.  It is my guess that the very first Bite of DC will serve as a positive learning experience and will ultimately be used to produce the best possible events in the future.

The event was held at Yard's Park, near the Nationals ball park.  Truthfully, I was unfamiliar with this location before heading to the park on Saturday.  It's essentially a grassy area in between a condo building, the Trapeze School of New York, and an old factory.  I've heard good things about this park, and it seems like it is growing into a staple locaiton for this neighborhood.  Had the weather cooperated, I probably would have appreciated the venue a bit more.  I will be back to check it out when the sun is shining!  My only suggestion on venue location would have been to include some signage in the metro directing patrons which exit to take.

Upon entering the event, we were immediately handed plastic souvenir glasses to enjoy the unlimited wine and beer being offered.  The cups were cute, and my friend Abby who joined me at the event kept both because she loved them!  

Once we had the cups, we did what any other people in the damp, drab weather would do.  We headed to the long table and grabbed some vino.  I expected the wine and beer options to be presented by local vineyards/distilleries, but it seemed that most of the people doing the pouring were simply volunteering to help out at the event.  There was much knowledge about what was being offered, but everyone was very friendly.  It would be great if in the future some reps could attend and educate those interested in learning about the products offered. But, I really can't complain too much about unlimited alcohol.  Check plus!

As far the food, which I expected to be the feature act at the Bite of DC, some of the offerings were awesome, others not so much.  Let's start with the positives.  Luke's Lobster served half of a lobster roll.  This is obviously a classic dish served by the establishment, and as expected was delicious. We loved the vibe that the Luke's crew emitted.  We also thought their set up was cool!  They had a little toaster machine to quickly toast the bun and were using a turkery baster to splash a bit of butter on the rolls.  Ingenious! 

Cedar, a Penn Quarter restaurant that is not a new kid on the block, served grilled rabbit sausage with pea puree, pickled asparagus, local radishes, sorrel, and chive blossom.  I was a bit anxious about eating rabbit (I try to avoid eating cute animals a la duck and veal), but I must admit, it was delicious.  The rabbit was being grilled and plates were being prepared on the spot.  I could really tell that Cedar took pride in the food that they were serving and wanted the experience to be a positive one for diners at the event.  I will definitely be checking out this restaurant to sample some of their other offerings.  It also looked like they had some great happy hour features!

At this point, we decided to try the dessert that was being offered by Windows catering.  Since I have no previous knowledge of this caterer, I didn't really have any expectations.  I must say, I was pleasantly surprised.  The blueberry parfait with a butter cream puff exceeded my expectations and was a refreshingly delicious dessert.  The custard was the perfect consistency, and I enjoyed the incorporation of fresh blueberry puree.  It also looked really pretty, which is also a plus.  I have since learned that the chef behind Windows,  Laurent Lhuillier, is a superstar pastry chef, as are the other individuals behind Windows.

Now, onto the not so great dishes.  Jaleo and Rogue 24 were the final two restaurants being featured at the Bite of DC.  We were quite confused when we noticed that the lines at Luke's and Cedar were wrapped throughout the crowd, whereas the lines for Jaleo and Rogue 24 were nonexistent.  This did not bode well.  

Jaleo served up what I will simply call beans and tomatoes.  This dish was extremely disappointing, and almost insulting. It was almost as if Jaleo though: "Well, we're Jaleo, we don't have to put in any effort because people are going to flock to us no matter what we do.  I mean come on, we have Jose Andres, we can do no wrong."  What's even worse is that the beans were undercooked and that the tomaotes did nothing to compliment them at all.  This dish was disjointed and poorly prepared.  

Rogue 24, which is very popular right now in the District, had my interest piqued when I saw their menu description prior to the event: Cucumber/Yogurt/Smoked Trout/Roe.  Imagine my surprise when some uninterested people behind the table unenthusiastically described what really was nothing more than a cold cucumber soup puree.  If there was trout and roe incorporated into this soup, it would take a palate more delicate than mine to taste it.  Again, it seemed as though this restaurant put zero thought into the dish they were serving.  Highly disappointing.  I have no interest whatsoever in making it to Rogue 24 any time soon.

Overall, I think this event was a good starting point but has some room for improvement. I hope that in the future, the restaurants featured at this event will improve the quality of food that they're serving.  I do understand that this was Bite of DC's first event.  Inaugural events are bound to have bumps in the road, and I am sure they will smooth the pavement for the next inception of this event.  I will likely be checking out the Taste of DC in October, which is bound to be a stellar option with more than 70 restaurants participating. 

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