Now, I’m not going to pretend that I knew what burrata was before my fantastically knowledgeable friend (hint: she writes this blog) told me about it like, 6 months ago. Before being enlightened, I would have just called it cheese and passed it over on a menu like chicken. THANK GOD I saw the light and now I can drop the burrata card in most food-centered conversations to sound intelligent. Naturally, burrata is the opus of this post especially since, if you really want to use a word well you have to practice.
To be clear, even though I don’t know all the words on most menus, I do know good food. I grew up around it, I stuff my face with it, and some of my friends call me snobby about it. I just know what I like and that consists of eating out and drinking heavily. Cue the lights for Mintwood Place.
When I moved to DC from Nashville I was afraid that all of my favorite things about the Nashville food scene would be lost in my life… forever. Nashville is casual. Nashville is cheap. And Nashville makes you feel cool without having to smoke a cigarette. Obviously, you can if you want to though, this is America. Luckily for me, when I was unemployed and roaming my neighborhood for entertainment (wink), I stumbled upon Chef Cedric Maupillier’s Mintwood Place. Now a semifinalist for the 2013 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic and Best New Restaurant, Mintwood Place still feels like my neighborhood restaurant, even though Mr. Obama eats there.
When my mom was in town visiting, I knew that I had to share this gem with her. Every detail of the modern French provincial barn décor makes you feel at home, right down to the simple white and red striped linen napkins. My mom thinks she is French, so I knew she would settle into the bistro-style table, read over the menu, order a stiff drink and get tipsy enough to say ‘bonjour’.
I started the meal with the L’automne. The cocktail was a magical medley of Dancing Pines bourbon, apple, lemon, orange, tamarind-pomegranate syrup, and Burlesque bitters. Personally, I would have liked to sip this drink in the fall watching the leaves turn and not on a blistery winter night, but just like the great Mick Jagger sings, you can’t always get what you want. Plus, if I really was that worried about it, I should have asked my mom for a translation as the name of the drink means autumn in French. Duh.
We started the meal off with the Blistered Shishito Peppers, which I can’t get enough of. My favorite restaurant in Seattle (#Walrus!) makes these mild pepper perfections and Mintwood is the only restaurant I have found to rival Lady Renee’s recipe. The peppers were grilled to perfection with a touch of course sea salt. It was the best appetizer because I felt healthy enough after to eat the entire loaf of rustic French baguette with sweet butter and salt. What mom? French women don’t get fat.
In true skinnybitch form my mother chose to have the Burrata and Kale Salad. No carbs? No, thank you. I ordered the Steak Tartare and Spuds, plus the Tagliatelle Bolognese, “for the table.” But of course, the French woman always wins because the star of the night was by far the burrata. Oh my goodness, the burrata was insane. The flavors were paired perfectly with the crispy kale, hazelnuts, apple slices and tamarind. It was literally the best party you have ever been to, in your mouth.
My steak tartare was wonderful as well. Little chunks of raw beef topped with tiny fried cubed spuds made for a great rendition of the French classic. Would I have liked an egg on top? Probably, but the dish was refreshing, which is something I don’t usually say about devouring half a pound of raw meat. Similarly, the tagliatelle was warm, comforting and gorgeously made. As a connoisseur of the perfect bolognese myself, I appreciated the pasta to sauce ratio and the flavors of this classic dish. Touché, Mr. Maupillier; I felt at home, in my modern provincial French barn, which is exactly what you were going for. Now, please pass the wine menu.
In all, as a neighbor and a regular, I never go wrong with Mintwood Place. If you live in DC, shame on you if you have not frequented this classy place. If you are visiting, make Mintwood Place your first dining experience in the city. It is a great pulse of a great city. It will make you want to move here and start dropping words like burrata and shishito into casual conversation with the President.
Mintwood Place, 1813 Columbia Road NW, Washington, DC, (202) 234-6732, http://www.mintwoodplace.com, Open Tuesday – Sunday for Dinner, Brunch on Saturday and Sunday (See Website for Hours), Reservations Recommended.