Tuesday, March 31, 2009

No Pizza On Menu At Commander's Palace Restaurant in New Orleans

Liza and I like to venture out to other parts of the world now and then, and so we recently departed Washington, D.C., for a trip down south to New Orleans.

Of course, we had to go to Commander's Palace, regarded as one of the top restaurants in the country. It was recently featured on "Top Chef," one of our favorite reality shows. Last season on "Top Chef," we rooted on Crazy Carla, who hails from Washington, D.C., because we figured she would probably make the best pizza of the finalists.

Commander's Palace is located in the Garden District in New Orleans, not far from the homes of actor Nicolas Cage and the Mannings. (They are the NFL's first family, apparently).

We arrived promptly for our 7:30 p.m. reservation, dressed to the nines, and were seated in a beautiful upstairs dining room. We sat down and looked at the menu. And looked. And looked.


No pizza.

This was very disappointing. How could one of the great restaurants in the country not have pizza on the menu?

Instead, I had to settle for a Gumbo soup as an appetizer and a Crawfish and Cognac entree. Liza had a salad as a starter and Red Snapper for her main course. We enjoyed bread pudding and creme brulee for desserts.

Now the meals were superb, to be sure. The Gumbo was, in a word, awesome. And I enjoyed the Crawfish so much that I insist Liza call me "Crawdaddy" from here on out. The ambiance was romantic and the service was impeccable--we liked how dishes were served in concert by multiple waiters.

But, alas, no pizza.

Gary's Rating: 0 stars
Liza's Rating: 0 stars

Disappointed, we headed to Cafe Du Monde for some beignets.

And back to D.C. for some pizza!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Banana Cafe & Piano Bar, Barrack's Row/Capitol Hill

In my years of dining experience, I've come to realize that you have to be in the mood for Mexican or Caribbean food. It's not the type of food you can eat randomly.

Now, apart from chips and salsa, Liza is rarely in the mood for Mexican food. When she is, I'm on it. I enjoy spicy meals and spicy flavors. I actually like Taco Bell, but I keep that on the down low because Liza thinks Taco Bell is "yuck-o."

So this evening we go to the aptly named Banana Cafe & Piano Bar on 8th Street SE along Barrack's Row. Call it a big yellow oasis in the middle of the city. (The Piano Bar is upstairs and has a different menu.) It's a combo Mexican-Cuban-Puerto Rican-Tex Mex restaurant and the menu has all sorts of Caribbean-style dishes.

It's always very loud at Banana Cafe. Kind of hard to have a quality conversation when there's a roar of conversation all around you. In any event, a smiling waiter placed the obligatory chips and salsa on our table, and Liza and I went to work. We were hungry. She ordered a glass of white sangria and I ordered a Corona.

Liza was there for her favorite: plaintain quesadillas. She loves plaintain quesadillas. This is not a plaintain quesadilla blog, though.

I ordered Cuban Pizza. It's the only pizza item on the menu and I had to try it.

It came with a fresh salad. (I could have opted for French fries instead of the salad. But who eats French fries with pizza? Or Mexican food? Not a good combination.)

This Cuban Pizza is a personal size pizza. The menu says it is topped with Picadillo consisting of ground beef and pork, ripe plantains and mozerella (sic) cheese. The fine chefs at Banana Cafe also lopped on some peas, corn, diced red peppers, onions and parsley. What a concoction! I'm surprised there are no banana slices on there.

By the way, Liza is a vegetarian, so she is going to have to sit out this review.

The pizza toppings were piled on and as I picked up the first slice, I was wary the entire thing would fall apart. It didn't. No droopiness, either. Well done.

Now the crust was thick--which helped keep the generous toppings in place--but it was a bit rubbery. Not good. This is a Mexican restaurant, though, so I suspect the chefs are not twirling fresh pizza dough in the kitchen.

The Picadillo ground beef and plaintains combined for a sweet flavor. The ground beef seemed to add a taste of barbecue to it, actually. Some might say the ground beef tasted like a Sloppy Joe, but that doesn't do the this concoction justice. It's probably the same ground beef the chefs use for their tacos.

Overall, I enjoyed the Cuban Pizza. It was something different: a unique pizza dish in a city where Margherita pizzas are all too prevalent. Plus, with the salad and chips and salsa, it's a quality meal for just $10.95.

Maybe you have to be in the mood for Mexican food. If you are, then give the Cuban Pizza a go.

Gary's Rating: 3 stars

Monday, March 9, 2009

Posto-- Logan Circle

Last Thursday, Gary and I went out with our friends Steph and the Chef to Posto.

It was Dining Out for Life night, where restaurants donated a percentage of their profits to the worthy organization Food and Friends. Posto, and their sister restaurant Tosca, donated a full 100 percent of their sales that evening to the cause. Well done, Posto!

We got there early, which was good because by 6 p.m. the restaurant was packed, and loud. After getting a nice bottle of wine, we decided to order an appetizer...Pizza!

After reading a review that said the pizza at Posto was not very good, I was a bit leery. But we needed to try some pizza for research purposes, of course, so we all split a pie called the "caprina." It had tomato sauce, goat cheese, roasted peppers, mozzarella, and cherry tomatoes--an appetizing combination.

Since I went into it with such low expectations, I was plesantly surprised. I found it to be a pretty reasonable pie.

Gary was a bit chagrined that he bit into a slice and a cherry tomato exploded all over him. He wiped his cheek and lips, looked around the restaurant to make sure no one noticed, and then continued eating.

He thought the first slice (the one with the exploding tomato) tasted bland, but the second slice he was able to taste a good combination of goat cheese, tomato sauce and peppers.

Overall, I thought the pizza was flavorful and the crust was decent. I wouldn't call it the best pizza in the city, but it certainly wasn't the worst. (How's that for a wishy washy review?)

Liza's rating: 2.5 stars
Gary's rating: 3.0 stars

Monday, March 2, 2009

Moroni & Brothers-- Petworth

Since I have a snow day today (YAY!), Gary says I must write our latest blog entry.

Yesterday Gary and I made a visit to our financial planner. She says that I should not cry because my IRA has lost half its value. She says that recessions are good. She says that the economy partied too much, and this is just the hangover. She says that it won't last forever.

She said a lot of other stuff too, but mostly I sat there for an hour and a half thinking, "I need a drink."

After we left our financial planner's office in Silver Spring, we drove down Georgia Avenue through the Petworth neighborhood. First, we stopped at Safeway to pick up a couple groceries. This ended up being an hour long ordeal, since DC residents go a little nuts before a snow storm, and folks were stocking up like they were entering a bomb shelter for the next three months.

By the time we left, I was hungry. No, make that starving. When I am hungry, I am grouchy, as Gary can well attest. He knew he had to get some food in my belly ASAP. Therefore, we stopped at the first place we saw-- Moroni & Brothers Restaurant.

Moroni & Brothers had the odd combination of brick oven pizza and Latin American fare. The ambience was not like your typical pizza joint-- the Spanish language version of American Idol was on TV, and the lighting was dark. Gary was none too pleased that we sat at a table with a dirty tablecloth. But, they had plenty of City Papers on hand for browsing before the meal-- and I did! Sorry Gary, I was just too grouchy to chat at that point.

We each ordered a glass of the "Rosso" Venti, which was described as a pizza wine. Pro-- only $4 a glass! Con-- it was served cold. Call me a wine snob, but red wines are supposed to be room temperature, or just a bit cooler. I am just saying. But actually the wine was pretty good once it warmed up a bit.

We ordered the primavera pie, which had mushrooms, red onions, and green pepper. I thought the pizza had a nice crust thanks to the wood brick oven, and the toppings were decent.

Gary was perplexed why each of his slices seemed to have different flavors (not that there's anything wrong with that). His first slice was dominated with a strong green pepper flavor. In another slice, he noticed a strong tomato sauce flavor, which had a spicy bite to it. Later, he was impressed with the flavor of the mushrooms on another slice.

Other than that, Gary thought Moroni's had basic pizza fare.

He also commented that primavera pizza usually consists of more vegetables than just musrooms, onions and green pepper. How about some spinach? Tomatoes? Broccoli? Let's get creative, people!

Despite Gary's misgivings, we both finished off the pie--four slices each--which is a testament to how hungry we were.

All in all, Moroni & Brothers was a good find. I left much happier with a full belly. And in this economy, when you can spend $30 on a meal for two, including tax and tip, that's a winner in my book.

Liza's rating: 2.5 stars
Gary's rating: 2.0 stars