Soon after Christmas, my D.C. friend called me up on a whim and coyly inquired, "Want to take a red eye to D.C. from New Orleans to visit me for New Year's? It's short notice, but I'll take you out to a nice brunch if you visit."
"Sure," was my drenched-in-sarcasm reply.
Before I knew it, I was sprinting across the waxed tile floors of Louis Armstrong Airport, with my slovenly-packed luggage careening behind me.
When I breathlessly arrived in D.C., my friend immediately escorted me to the Blue Duck Tavern, based on a review he read in the Washingtonian. "You're gonna love this place," he said, with a smirk slowly inching upon his sly lips.
"It serves comforting, homey meals, but is consummately pretentious in the D.C. way."
Upon entering the toasty restaurant from the frigidness from outdoors, we stripped off the wool mittens and scarves from our chilly hands and necks. Our flushed cheeks were greeted with an encompassing warmness from the restaurant. In the corner of my eyes, I spied glowing embers and slight flames licking the inside a wood fire oven. I felt at home already.
As we warmed our quivering bodies in the heat of the restaurant, my friend and I decided to start with two categorically non-cold weather appetizers. Both included tuna.
First, we ordered an appetizer of tuna tartare. The tartare was flecked with green chive ringlets and adorned with a diameter of freshly grated pepper running across its symmettrical surface. Most impressively, the gelatinous cubes of the chopped tuna flesh coddled a delicate quail egg, tenuously held together by its yolk membrane.
Every cube of tartare was silken to the bite, and the tartare went perfectly with the hatch-cut potato crisps and the baby greens, which were dressed in a light, lemon-infused olive oil. Unlike my previous experiences with tuna tartare, I couldn't taste any Asian inspiration. I could only discern a trace of lemon zest and the full-bodied fruitiness from the olive oil.
Additionally, we ordered thick-cuts of yellowfin tuna steak, seared until a thin crust of spices had embedded into the tuna's surface. The tuna was served over a Mediterranean salad of chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta cheese. Every hypnotic flavor from the salad was powerful, but not overpowering.
The sultry and seductive flavors whipped together creaminess of the chickpeas and feta cheese, the tongue-piercing saltiness of the olives, and the concentrated and potent flavor of sun-dried tomatoes.
As a side to our main dish, we feasted on a cheesy, buttery, and dairy-decadent cauliflower gratin. The firm nibs of the cauliflower were suspended in a thick and cheesy casserole gravy made of rich, whole-fat cream.
For our main entree, we ordered wood fired tavern steak with roasted garlic and shallots. The roasting intensified the beefy flavor in every strand of the meat and accentuated sweet aromas from the shallots and garlic. The roasting brought every element to their flavor climax. My dining companion and I eagerly squeezed the creamy garlic innards out from their papery skins and smeared them into the nooks and pockets of the complimentary crusty bread. The bread served another purpose, to sponge up the mahogany au jus collected inside the metal serving dish.
The Blue Duck Tavern prides itself on cooking traditional America cuisine. If eating at the Blue Duck Tavern is a sign of one's love towards America, then I am one of the most patriotic there is! But if we talk about the Iraq war. . . Well, that is another story.