A Slate of Seasonal Selections

Written by Anita

May 23, 2011

Spring is in full swing, and we’ve got a trio of seasonal menus to prove it!

Since 1928, Ridgewells has provided corporate, social, and event catering for generations of Washingtonians. We recently sampled dishes from its Spring menu, created by new corporate chef Robert Gadsby. The first taste of Spring came from sweet corn agnolotti—soft folds of tender pasta, filled with sweet corn and topped with an edible flower, an airy foam, shaved American truffles, and baby peas. A study of Hudson Valley Foie Gras included the rich delicacy done three ways: foie gras pastrami, a white chocolate foie gras truffle, and (our personal favorite) a toast round topped with foie gras, prosciutto, and a fried quail egg. The uber-tender Wagyu beef sirloin, with its peppery crust and creamy pat of Stilton butter, was flanked by a mélange of petit carrots in bright hues of red, yellow, and orange and a delicate confit of shallots and dried onion. For dessert, Ridgewells offered a Night at the Movies—a themed dessert by Ridgewells’ pastry designer Ashley Roop that included a gold-leafed chocolate lava pudding cake, popcorn-flavored ice cream decorated with popcorn blooming from a spiraled chocolate stem, a nutty roasted peanut caramel, and a jiggly root beer gelee. Now that’s entertainment!

Urbana, in DC’s Hotel Palomar, has blossomed anew this Spring with a new chef. John Critchley, formerly of Miami’s Area 31 and a master of subtly Mediterranean flavors and sustainable seafood, heads the dining room. The Spring menu includes a stellar appetizer of tender calamari rings, jumbo shrimp, clams, and mussels, swimming in a fragrant coconut citrus broth and topped with a nest of saffron threads. Standout entrees include the lamb (a fork-tender seared lamb saddle and braised shank, marinated in dried herbs and flowers and served atop a creamy white polenta with a colorful blend of rosemary infused peppers and sweet cipollini onions) and the hearty beef short ribs (with lemon verbena, olive-oil roasted baby vegetables, orange gremolata herb purée, crisp almonds, and roasted fennel). For dessert, don’t miss the apple tart tatin—the upside down tart features carmelized spiced apple quarters and is accompanied by jammy drunken strawberries, cider glazed vanilla gelato, and cider foam.

Not in the mood for a full meal? You can enjoy many of Urbana’s popular bar bites in the main dining room. We swooned over the plump dates wrapped in Serrano ham and stuffed full of creamy blue cheese—they are practically a meal in themselves! Or try the fat merguez housemade lamb sausages over spring chestnut puree, topped with a vibrant salsa verde and tart pomegranate seeds. These tasty bites also can be enjoyed in Urbana’s lounge, which features a nightly happy hour weeknights from 4 to 7, with $4 European beers and a selection of $5 still wines and sparklers. Half-price pizzas and $2 oysters round out these very “happy” hours.

Named one of this year’s best restaurants by Washingtonian Magazine, Bastille is Old Town Alexandria is slightly off the beaten path, tucked in a mostly residential setting. Its Spring menu, developed by husband and wife team Christophe and Michelle Poteaux, offers an array of French countryside fare.

Start your meal with the pana cotta au fromage de chevre, cerises et aux amandes, salade de roquette (peppery baby Arugula salad served with a smooth cool round of goat cheese pana cotta, plump cherries, crispy almonds, and dressed in a zesty balsamic vinaigrette). It makes for a perfect warm weather dish! Two mains won our hearts—the lapin fermier en duo, cuisse confite, selle rotie au bacon, jus a la biere et moutarde, lentilles vertes, feuilles de moutarde poeles (the free-range rabbit duo: tender confit thigh and roasted saddle wrapped in bacon and dressed in a zesty mustard-beer sauce, served atop firm green lentils and sautéed mustard greens) and the gnocchi Parisiens aux herbes avec fricassee de legumes de printemps (Parisian-style gnocchi with goat cheese, fresh herbs, and a spring vegetable fricassee of asparagus, mushrooms, carrots, onions, and snowpeas). Want dessert? Mais oui! Opt for the dense fudgy Valrhona chocolate truffle cake topped with cherry and served with a spicy chocolate chipotle soup. Want a bargain? Bastille offers a three course menu for $39 (plus $20 for wine pairings). A perfect pre-theater meal before a show at Metro Stage, conveniently located right next door.

To experience Bastille’s charming outdoor patio in warm weather, make your reservation now for its Foam and Flame Dinner—a late Spring/early Summer celebration in which Bastille will be pairing some great Belgium-style beer with seasonal grilled and barbecued food. C’est si bon!

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