Sunday, May 8, 2011

six months

I am going to do a not-very-impressive job of describing Thursday, just because my mind is so… boggled by it.

Post is entitled “6 months” because that is the length of time I’ve been rather extraordinarily fortunate enough to have Steve around, in the whole “boyfriend” capacity rather than just “coworker”. It’s been a… really really super awesome six months, and the six months celebration was just as exuberant, unpredictable, crazy, exciting, romantic, etc. as everything else has been these six months.

I showed up at Steve’s at lunchtime expecting our usual lunch. He announces we’re going for a picnic. Here:


Yep, drove into DC on our lunch hour. Just cause.

So we’re digging into our picnic and then Steve tells me I have to hurry up… because we’re about to go to the top of the monument.

Back story: to go to the top of the monument, you have to stand in a line to pre-buy tickets first thing in the morning. So Steve had gotten up at 6:15 to do so. So that was nice enough. But, in fact, Steve had done that once before; on the October day that we went kayaking.

It ended up not happening that day, but that day was nonetheless special. We kayaked with Erin (and a complete stranger we got to go with us), but then Erin left for a date and Steve and I wandered the city together, got dinner, tipsily fought over the check and, both of us admit in hindsight, totally fell in like.

SO in reminiscence of that day; and just because I had, despite having lived here since I was 8, never been to the top of the monument (the elevators were perpetually being repaired throughout my childhood); and cause it’s just an incredible view of the city, he took me.


Oh, and the picnic was pretty great too.


I had brought stuff anticipating our usual Thursday lunch collaboration. I totally ignored it. My stuff was boring. Steve’s was smashing.

He made AWESOME sweet potato peanut soup. Back story: Steve is a conservationist to the point of being a bit of a hoarder. At work, we receive some food bank food which is definitely sometimes on the bizarre side. At their site, they got a huge shipment of individual serving cups of peanut butter which smelled and tasted pretty odd and had weird ingredients. His coworkers were all set to toss them… so Steve took them home. He has like three pounds of peanut butter in his room. SO, trying to be helpful, I sent some peanut recipes that way, and as a result was the lucky recipient of a spicy, peanutty, utterly addictive African-flavored soup! He also made glorious asparagus. I asked him how he got such blistery flavorful goodness without a grill and he said, “Oh, about four tablespoons of olive oil.” The Izze sodas are an obsession of his. I rarely drink sodas but dang that clementine flavor is good. Hadn’t had one since freshman year of college. Hit. The. Spot.

Back to work for a pretty forgettable afternoon. We met up after work and took a leisurely walk in the park. He gave me a piece of succulent homemade taco he’d saved me from Cultural Cooking, an activity we do with parents at both of our jobs.


And then followed a series of elaborate deceptions involving a blindfold, several unnecessary uturns, and other ruses to try and keep me from guessing my surprise.

I drew the line at walking blind in heels, and discovered myself in Georgetown. Still, I had no idea where I was going. We strolled down M, looking at the usual Georgetown prettiness around us, and then we turn the corner… and I see the entrance to… Citronelle.

Ho. Ly. Crap.

People who’ve lived in this area will maybe recognize the name (or, in general, food aficionados), but Michel Richard, chef at Citronelle, is one of the greatest chefs in the country (world?). He’s known for his creativity and wit in the kitchen (something you’ll see in this meal!) and seriously, for me, with the amount of fame he has in my head, eating at his restaurant was akin to a backstage pass at a Lady Gaga concert.

We sat down to absolute elegance and Spanish wine.


The sommelier just APPEARED at our table and showed us our wine as if it was a foregone conclusion. She gave us tastings first, and I swirled it and giggled. I drank it. It was red. It was yummy. All I can tell you!

An open kitchen makes for an amazing view. Steve was cracking up watching me. I told him that me watching this was like him watching a Cubs game. Watching them saute. Watching them grill. Watching them drizzle sauces on things. So cool!

Steve is adorable and called the restaurant in advance to see if the chef would be in that night (but he apparently was celebrating Cinco de Mayo by visiting… Mexico!). Watching the methodical frenzy of the chefs in the kitchen, I had absolutely no doubts that I was in great hands for the evening.


There was lots of toasting and staring at each other and stuff, plus me just gaping a lot, but eventually we cracked the menu and decided on our orders. And then the parade of food began to arrive.

It started with bread, warm from the oven, delivered by sober faced waiters with tongs. The outside was quite crisp and made an unbelievably satisfying and loud crunch as you bit through it to the hot, fluffy, luscious interior. Plus butter, natch.


Then the amuse bouche! There was an amuse bouche! God, my life is like Top Chef now!


So the idea of this is that it is appetizer, entree, and dessert, all in tiny form.

Starting on your right is a deviled egg- but it was a teeny tiny delicious quail egg, deviled and topped with fat beads of caviar that popped into your mouth, filling it with rich and salty flavor.

In the center is a “taco”. The outside was the thinnest slice of cucumber, and the filling was a heavenly tuna tartare. Holding it together was the tiniest clothespin I have ever seen!

Finally, furthest left, the “cupcake”. The unbelievably detailed base (when you looked at it up close, it looked like it had been baked in a crinkly cupcake holder!) was actually pumpernickel bread, and the “frosting” was smoked salmon mousse.


All were delicious. Steve and I had a horribly difficult time trying to figure out which bite was our favorite.

Let me take this pause in the service to mention the service. In that: it was absolutely unbelievable. All of the waiters were somber men who appeared in an instant the second my water glass was low, knew the second I had to run to the bathroom to show me the way there, and could answer any of my numerous questions as well as just give fun details about the items as they were served, particularly after they figured out that I was blogging about all of it. They clearly got a kick out of us since we were pretty much decades younger than most of the patrons. Probably had kids our age!

Anyway, this picture nicely sums up the absolute grandeur of the whole thing:


Knife holder. No knife should ever have to sit on the table. The minute it appeared to, they’d come and quickly return it to its proper place. Wowsa.

So the meal was a price fixe type thing. So you got appetizer, entree, and dessert. Everything sounded magnificent, and the menu descriptions were more like teasers, annoyingly brief (just 2 or 3 words). BUT, I just cannot turn down foie gras.

So I got the deceptively simply named “foie gras salad.”



The foie gras on top I’m thinking was seared just on the outside with some sort of outer coating, then sliced wonderfully paper thin. It is SO rich and glorious. Passed off a lot to Steve, who’d never had it and is all about the fat. Along with that, there were stunning and oh-so-delicate mustard greens, thinly sliced radishes, strips of salty and rich proscuitto, avocado that was sliced into unbelievably thin swirlies, and Asian pear that had been sliced into perfectly precise and tiny squares.

Not only was it absolutely delicious, with every flavor perfectly matched, it was basically a masterpiece.


Steve, meanwhile, got this!


Craziness, right?!

They called it lobster “beluga” pasta. What came out looked like beluga caviar but was actually little circles of pasta; not dissimilar to Israeli couscous. However, once you dug underneath you found chunks of lobster and- wait for it- a WARM RUNNY FRIED EGG. So so perfect for Steve.

As for the entrees, I decided to go for something I’d never tried before and ordered a recommendation from the waiter, the Silver Hake. I’d never had hake before but he compared it to halibut with the meatiness, but with a bit more flavor. It was served with “ginger emulsion” and “trofie-lobster gratin”.

This arrived.


Old. School. Classy. Wow.

But seriously, then they unveiled it to reveal this:


First of all, the perspective is off on this picture; it was a BIG FAT PIECE of fish. As promised, meaty and firm. That sauce it was on? Insane. Totally insane. The waiter said it was a lobster ginger reduction (you tasted it and went BUTTER!) and when, mystified, I waved him down and asked what gave it the beautiful red color, he said roasted red pepper. Those trumpet mushrooms on top were yummy too.

As for the gratin.


It turned out the trofie is a cute little curly pasta. The gratin had chunks of lobster and addictive buttered breadcrumbs.


Half my fish and a few bites of the utterly rich gratin already had me feeling full, so I passed some off to Steve. Which is good, cause, yknow, the food was great but he’s used to eating three times as much as I do, so I try to do my part when we go out to eat at pre-portioned restaurants.

Still, lucky me, I got a taste of his :D He got the lamb, “rack, tarbais beans, jalapeno cumin sauce”.

Let’s deconstruct this thing.


First of all, the lamb melted. in. your. mouth. He got it cooked medium (I am a medium rare girl, but this was on the medium rare side of medium, which I adore :D) and it was just sooooooooooo succulent. That puff at the edge of the shot? The outside was crunchylicious, but the inside was a potato whip that was the most GARLICLICIOUS thing I have ever tasted. It was SO good. The fancy beans mentioned in the description tasted basically like black beans, which is hilariously appropriate for Steve. And the green sauce? Blissssssssssss.

Mmm mmm mm. Happy bellies, for sure.

Then came pre dessert. Um, can all of my meals have pre dessert?


The contents of that little cup were a wonderful light whippy mousse on the bottom layer (perhaps made with egg whites?), a wonderful caramel sauce on top, little pieces of caramelized pineapple, and bites of what I SWEAR tasted like cocoa puffs.

Seriously, the wit!


When it came to ordering actual dessert, the meal, once again, was so VAGUE! ARGH!

I was torn between the top three desserts. Steve ordered the first, and I asked the waiter which he preferred, and ordered it.


First arrived Steve’s “extraordinary eggs”. This is one of the dishes for which Michel Richard is justifiably famous.


Brilliance. The “shells” were white chocolate. “Soft boiled egg”? Mousse, topped with a “yolk” of lemon curd. “Hard boiled egg” was coconut sorbet. The “fried egg” was a meringue, topped with more lemon curd.


I got the pear vacherin. The outer dome (a construction marvel) was a solid baked meringue. Inside were caramelized yet still crispy pears and pear sorbet, that melted into that bittersweet chocolate base to create… awesome.


Dessert was a hilarious and adorable circus of presentation. Our waiter took our pictures, looking like kids in a candy store.

DSC03973 DSC03974

Happy anniversary!

Well, actually, on our petit fours it first said “Happy birthday”. They quickly replaced it with an anniversary plaque. Which was edible. Pros!


In conclusion, Steve is the best. And you cannot have him because he is MINE.


Erin Lee said...

!!!! I'm so happy to be witness to this 6 mths amazingness. I love you guys <3 <3

Tamara Marnell said...

Good gracious! I was half expecting your post to end with a picture of a diamond ring on your finger...that boy went all out. What on earth is he going to do after the next six months?!

Sarah @ The Smart Kitchen said...


I don't even know what else to say. I think you probably can just read my mind and know what I'm thinking as I read it.

If you can't, pretend you can. Otherwise this will be a comment of immense proportions.

Steven Alexander Heathcliff Basil Bert said...


You're beautiful and wonderful, and everything about you is a fun adventure. I read your post for the first time last night and I was so utterly speechless and overtaken by goosebumps that I didn't no how to comment. Now after reading your post again, I've come to realize there is no substantial way I could ever explain how much it means to me to have you in my life, and to have you care this much about me and about us.

These have been the most exciting and fulfilling six months I have ever lived. Thank you for being who you are Ileana. I love you.