Best Dishes in a Year of Eating (Editors’ Pick)
Burgers, charcuterie plates and deviled eggs helped make 2014 a protein-packed year. And after a backlash against fried foods, they’re returning to local menus with a naughty vengeance in the form of fried vegetables, chicken and more. We asked Food Editor Carole Sugarman to name her favorite dishes of the past year—items she distinctly remembers eating and would order again without hesitation. “Please note, I did have some asparagus,” she jokes.
Asparagus Soup with Chicken-fried Egg
It’s not often that a soup is stunning, satisfying and structurally fascinating all at the same time, but this liquid beauty hit the trifecta. One half of a shallow round bowl was filled with green asparagus soup, the other half white, and in the middle sat a chicken-fried egg, which broke into a yellow stream when tackled with a spoon. As to how Old Angler’s Inn chef Nick Palermo battered and deep fried a raw egg to a golden hue without hard-cooking it, that would make for a good science project.
Old Angler’s Inn, 10801 MacArthur Blvd., Potomac; 301-365-2425;
Urban Butcher’s lamb tartare is a revelatory experience in eating raw food. Mixed with a bright, citrusy Moroccan-inspired dressing, the raw ground lamb was served on a homemade oval flatbread swiped with a generous layer of hummus. With lots of intriguing flavors, this dish is a rare combination, in more ways than one.
Urban Butcher, 8226 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring; 301-585-5800; www.urbanbutcher.com
Tandoori Pork Chop
Brined, rubbed with coriander and cumin, crusted in a tandoor oven, then finished in a pan with butter and smeared with onion marmalade, the humble (and often overcooked) pork chop was transformed by 4935 Bar and Kitchen owner and chef Ashish Alfred. Flavorful on the outside and juicy on the inside, the Indian-spiced meat was perfectly paired with crushed sweet potatoes and earthy dandelion greens.
4935 Bar and Kitchen, 4935 Cordell Ave., Bethesda; 301-951-4935; www.4935barandkitchen.com
Created by chef Bryan Voltaggio, these were probably the most talked-about meatballs in the metropolitan area last year. Braised in a ragu pomodoro and placed in a special oven that introduces humidity, the veal, pork, beef and mortadella balls come out incredibly soft, airy and juicy. Definitely not your mama’s meatballs.
Aggio, 5335 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. (in the Chevy Chase Pavilion); 202-803-8020;www.volt-aggio.com
Korean Fried Chicken
Even if you don’t go for the American version, Korean fried chicken is worth a try. Double fried, the wings and drumsticks crackle like an electrical storm in your mouth. And that second trip in the fryer actually diminishes greasiness by rendering more of the fat, resulting in paper-thin skin. In my mind, the Bonchon chain has a leg up as far as quality and spiciness, but Bethesda’s independently-owned MOMO Chicken + Jazz suits a hankering, too.
Bonchon, 107 Gibbs St., Unit A, Rockville; 301-637-9079 and 301-637-9379; www.bonchon.com
MOMO Chicken + Jazz, 4862 Cordell Ave., Bethesda; 240-483-0801; www.momofc.com
Not Your Average Joe
With free WiFi, high-speed Internet and lots of electrical outlets, Kaldi’s Coffee Bar has all the coffee shop requisites. But the quality of the food and drinks makes owner Tsega Hailemariam’s gathering spot special. The Counter Culture Coffee is brewed as espresso, regular drip or in an Alpha Dominche Steampunk (the latter resulting in a fresh-tasting, super smooth drink), and the house-made quick breads, coffeecake, bread pudding and babka are divine. Kaldi’s is in the process of adding a rooftop lounge, expanded café space and more food offerings, a project that could be completed before spring. For now, groups of chunky wood tables, gray leather sofas and oddball chairs create spheres of seating, and there are always plenty of people on laptops, lapping up the joe and the soothing atmosphere.
Kaldi’s Coffee Bar, 918 Silver Spring Ave., Silver Spring; 1-800-607-1324; www.kaldiscoffeebar.com