Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Birch and Barley: Happy.

Went to Birch and Barley the other night. Another opportunity seized in DC.

Holy god. It was good.

Current Local Favorite Restaurants (version 1.0):
1. Charleston - Baltimore, MD
2. Blue Duck Tavern - Washington, D.C.
3. Birch and Barley - Washington, D.C.
4. Cinghiale - Baltimore, MD
5. Joss- Annapolis, MD
6. Bangkok Oriental - Pasadena, MD
7. Galaway Bay - Baltimore, MD
8. Shin Chon - Columbia, MD
9. Tachibana - McLean, VA
10. Old Stein Inn - Mayo, MD

Birch and Barley is the downstairs/ upscale under belly of ChurchKey (read about how much I love CK here).

They have over 550 beers including a wonderful draft list. As I previously noted, one of my favorite things about this place is that they offer 4oz pours of all of their drafts, and they rotate the draft out regularly. I always see a new beer I have not tried, and I love how much the staff is able to guide me towards the perfect beer to suit my mood.

My accomplice and I started the evening with what else, BEERS.

He had the Bell's Two Hearted IPA, per my recommendation. Cause Bell's ROCKS.

I started with the Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron. A beer brewed in casks of Palo Santo wood from Paraguay. This beer was delicious, and it may be appearing more frequently on GFP in the near future. When Chris from BEERsimple and I met Sam Caligone (the brewer of Dogfish), I brought up this wood because Chris had told me the story of the Palo Santo Marron beer. This beer came about when a beer geek contacted Sam and shared the unique properties of this wood, in hopes of inspiring Sam to make a beer with it. Sam went for it and made a malty, medium bodied, brown beauty. When Sam heard that Chris works for PRS Guitars he mentioned that he knows someone who wants to have a mandolin made out of the Palo Santo wood. Chris and I are hoping for our palate's sakes that PRS and Dogfish can do some beer/music collaborations and create few love children.

After a few beers at CK we meandered down to the dining room. BB gets two MAJOR bonus points for 2 things...

1) Beautiful atmosphere with subdued lighting, EVEN though there is a spotlight directly on the table so I was able to photograph my food without a flash!!! So appreciated!

2) Having a modern design with super modern chairs that were so comfy I didnt realize they were plastic shells until the group next to us got up and left.

I was also impressed by the heater directly next to my leg. Next time I will request a seat in the dining area that overlooks the kitchen. Love that they have an open kitchen.

My only real complaint is that I had a headache and couldn't drink more.

The tasting menu looked spectacular but I held off this time.  We did split a Bear Republic Racer 5 to awaken our palates.

The beer ended up being a nice counter to the butter and rich dough of these delicious little starter nibbles. Some house made pretzel rolls, cornbread, and something else I was too hungry to identify.

We started with the mini portion of the Ricotta Cavatelli  with Braised Beef Shortrib, Salsify, and Parmesan. I had a headache before the night began so apparently even though I had a nice overhead light to help make these photos good, they aren't. The food was good though. The everything had a beautiful perfectly done texture and the flavors were rich yet not overwhelming. I didn't even get annoyed by the breadcrumbs on the pasta. Usually I hate when they add that, its like a hint to me that the texture of your dish is monotonous, or your portion is too big and you need a contrast. This however worked beautifully.

In case we hadn't had enough pasta we also ordered the truffle mac and cheese. I judge this dish harshly cause it's done frequently and its frequently bad. Again, with the crumby stuff on top! BUT, it was parmesan crisps, and it was delicious. I would have been happy with just that. 

Then came the main events. Oh my gosh these were wonderful. 

Pan Seared Rainbow Trout with Apple-Bacon Chutney, Braised Leeks, and Hazelnut The skin was crisp the flesh was firm and the flavors were all dancing around my tongue. The bacon was just there to compliment not overpower. I think a dish of the leeks and chutney would be enough if I were a vegetarian. 

Mike and I were looking for a knife when they brought the Honey Glazed Duck Breast with Leg Confit, Wild Rice, Figs, and Baby Turnips. We quickly realized they didn't bring one because it was so tender it cut with a butter knife. It has a silky texture and crisp skin. This was love on a plate if I ever tasted it. 

For dessert we had Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake Orange Glazed Cranberries, Cinnamon Ice Cream, and Candied Pecans. I was so tired and so full but this dessert really woke me up. I've said before how I am always highly impressed by a restaurant that makes wonderful food, and if they do dessert right then they have won my heart. There is nothing more to be said for this most perfect end to a stunningly delicious meal. Birch and Barley is awesome.