BRESCA Gave Me the Best Meal of My Life

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Photo Credit: TripAdvisor

No, I am not being hyperbolic.

I’v had a good amount of great food experiences over my relatively short life, both homemade and restaurant served; and visiting Washington, DC, this weekend I knew that I needed to have another one. I mean what’s a trip to the nation’s capital without a top quality meal? After doing some research I picked BRESCA for one specific item on the menu, their “Rohan Duck a La Presse,” and while I knew it would be good (I mean it better be for them to charge $118 for an “four per night” entree), I had no idea as I was rushing in the door that this would literally be the most unforgettable meal I’ve ever had.

I was seated very quickly and was almost immediately given a complimentary palate cleansing mixture of orgeat, apple juice and sherry…which was delicious. Its something that I would never have known existed but now have the urge to try making at home, not to mention that whenever an establishment can provide you with a complimentary anything, its a huge plus. Now going into this dinner, I didn’t plan on ordering any drinks, after all this was already an expensive meal and I figured that water would suit me fine instead of paying for a mixed drink; but that quickly changed when I saw “The Bee’s Knees.”

Composed of gin, mead, honey and lemon, the real draw of this tasty sounding cocktail was the fact that it came in a very unique “glass” shaped like a bee. When I asked for this drink I double checked with my server if this was indeed the drink I was thinking of and while he said that it was, unfortunately they ceased serving it in the bee because there was too much demand and not enough bees to be constantly using them. I ordered the drink anyway hiding my disappointment, that is until they placed my drink down in front of me and…

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“We were able to find one for you!”

Heck yes

I don’t know about you dear reader, but when a restaurant goes out of its way to do something for you it has ceased doing on a regular basis, you know they are the real deal; plus look at that thing, its so cool!

But as cool as it is lets be real, I came here for the the duck, and you might think $118 is a lot of money to pay for a duck breast and accouterments, but there is a reason for it. You see this duck is dry-aged for twenty-one days and has a coriander & pink peppercorn crust with local honey. Normally when you think of dry aged meat the first thing that comes to your mind is beef, so to be able to have that experience with the steak of birds is something I could not pass up.

I knew this was going to be special when a server came out carrying the biggest duck breast I had ever seen in my life, I mean this thing was huge, I didn’t know ducks came in that size. “This is your duck,” she told me, and continued to describe how they were about to de-bone and season it and that I should soon expect one of their chefs to come out and make a sauce in front of me. It all sounded so wonderful and I don’t know what I was expecting to see but it certainly wasn’t a portable stove and giant metal press to be wheeled out to my table! Apparently no one else was either as other patrons of BRESCA stopped mid conversation to stare at the show that was being put on for me.

“This is our duck press,” said the chef, “in it we’ve put the duck legs, neck and other parts and we are going to press out all the juices, blood and marrow and incorporate it into this red wine sauce in order to enhance it.”

Bloody Brilliant (Ha!)

If I might digress for a moment, I would have been happy if all they gave me was the duck, but in true great restaurant fashion, BRESCA is going to give you all the bang for your buck they can. In addition to the duck they included three sides that could have been served as appetizers; the first was one of the most delicious salads I’ve ever had, comprised of picked cherry, kohlrabi, noisette butter and spring herbs:

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Second was a fresh, warm bread that they bake daily and that (according to the chef) is “the best thing to eat with the pressed sauce,” and he wasn’t wrong.

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The final side was a savory duck leg tart with cherry, pistachio and spruce tip; and while I had seen it listed on the menu, it didn’t click in my mind until I bit into it that there was duck leg INSIDE THE TART! And holy cow (err, duck) it was great.

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The combination of the pastry with the rich flavor of the duck meat was so good that I wasn’t sure how the the breast could be better. Spoiler alert: it totally was.

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how to describe the flavor of this duck breast or the sauce it came in, but all I can say is son of a mother duck it was fantastic. As I ended up telling the server, I have no words.  Tender and juicy on its own, the duck enhanced red wine sauce made it all the more rich and savory…or maybe that came from the Foie Gras that I added for an extra twelve bucks…I mean, go big or go home right? Oh who am I kidding, it was probably both those things that made this an indescribably good flavor combination.  But its not enough to tell you, I just need to show you!

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Phenomenal

I was enjoying this dish so much that a woman, who I believe was the general manager, came over to me and said “You look like you want a high-five,” she was right, and we did.

That picture right there is my happy place. Its what I love most about the culinary arts; the ability to prepare something so creative and delicious is what makes places like this so special; and when you are able to do that while also making your customer feel incredibly special, you are doing nothing less than generating pure happiness, and that’s what real cooking is all about.

About three-quarters of the way through the meal I was all but full. I didn’t know how much more I could eat, not because I didn’t want to, but to be frank this is a meal that should be shared by two or more people; and if you ever make your way to BRESCA in DC, please go with friends and order this meal, I assure you it will not disappoint. But despite how full I was getting I couldn’t help but order a dessert. I did so because it was both small and incredibly special: a Foie Gras Cake Pop. WHAT? Yeah, you read that right; and though it sounds so wrong, it tasted oh so right.

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Covered in hazelnut, chocolate, amaretto and an edible gold leaf (talk about “rich”), this dessert honestly tasted like what Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream wishes it could taste like. Yes, I understand that it is hazelnut, not peanut, but honestly I got strong chocolate and peanut flavor vibes from the coating, and the cold duck liver inside truly gave it an ice cream-like texture and vibe. If I thought I couldn’t be any more pleased after my entree, lets just say I was very happy to be wrong. This is a desert that probably shouldn’t exist but thank goodness it does, and its something every one who claims to be even a remotely adventurous eater needs to try.

I’m not going to give BRESCA a rating for their meal or the experience, because truth be told an A+ or A++ or 5 Stars or whatever rating you could dream up…none of them can do this meal justice; but I think the one thing that can is just to say that BRESCA in Washington, DC, gave me hands down the best meal of my life, and that is really saying something.

Second Annual Pristine Awards

 

Awards

Welcome to the Second Annual Pristine Awards, where I pick the best “must eat” foods of the year based on what I have reviewed in 2016. As opposed to last year I will be changing up the format a bit to help keep this short and sweet. If a category is underrepresented in my reviews this year (Eg. if I ate a food item/category last year and not this year, or there were no new options), then they will not be mentioned here (for last year’s winners, click this link).

Best Burger Winner: Pretzel Burger (WBC) 

Runner Up: The 5 Napkin, 14 Spice Stuffed Burger (The Cobblestone)

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The Pretzel Burger takes it for the second year in a row, the Cobblestone’s offering put up a great fight, but Westchester Burger Co. has seriously perfected this amazing burger.

Best Specialty Pizza Winner: French Fry Pizza (Silver Lake Pizza)

Runner Up: Philly Cheesesteak Pizza (Silver Lake Pizza)

Former Winner: Vodka Sauce Pizza (Luca Bella)

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I mention former winner and runner up because of the immense respect I have for the now closed down Luca Bella and their Vodka Sauce pizza, that being said this was hands down the best specialty pizza I had this year, nothing else comes close. The combination of french fries, bacon, ranch, chives, and two kinds of cheese is fantastic, and is a whole lot better than should be allowed.

Best BBQ Winner: Cider Spiced Ribs (Whetstone Station)

Runner Up: The Trash Rib Teasers (Holy Smoke)

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What else can I say about these ribs that I haven’t already said? As I wrote in my review, “Smothered in sauce, these ribs are near perfection. The BBQ sauce is sweet, with a semi hot (but not overpowering) cider spice.” Can’t beat it.

Best Bird Winner: Duck Confit (Le Provencal)

Runner Up: Fried Chicken (Birdsall House)

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Our second two-time winner, this Duck Confit remains the best bird I have ever had, and the most steak like bird I’ve seen.

Best Desert Winner: Cheesecake (Westchester Burger Co.)

Runner Up: Maple Bacon Ice Cream (Birdsall House)

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Believe it or not, the runner up race was harder to pick than the winner! There were a lot of good choices this year, but the cheese(cake) stands alone.

Best Penne Alla Vodka Winner: Sal’s (White Plains)

Runner Up: Doubleday’s.

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To be honest, if Luca Bella were still around, there would be no contest; Sal’s is great, but Luca Bella was something else. That being said, Sal’s has become the best Penne Vodka in Westchester County, and is deserving of this victory for sure.

Best Non-Beef/Bird Meat Winner: Rack of Lamb (KEE Oyster House)

Runner Up: Pork Belly with Miso and Kimchi (Communal Kitchen) 

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Truly the best lamb I’ve ever tasted; from the rich red tenderness of the meat, to the succulent bone and citrus infused panko crust, this is a meal to behold…and then devour.

Best Appetizer Winner: Chicken Fried Steak Bites (Prohibition River)

Runner Up: Charcuterie Board (Communal Kitchen)

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Still one of the most amazingly flavored appetizers out there, I’ve been longing for it ever since I first tried it. While it is not readily available on the menu (it is seasonal), it is still the top appetizer around.

Best Steak Winner:  8 oz Filet Mignon (Ruth’s Chris)

Runner Up: 8 oz Filet Mignon Au Poivre (O’Malley’s)

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You can’t go wrong with a prime cut of steak that is served on a sizzling 500 degree plate. For awhile O’Malley’s was going to take home the title, but then Ruth’s Chris came back into my life during Hudson Valley Restaurant Week; and I’m so glad she did.

Best Soup/Chowder Winner: New England Clam Chowder (O’Malley’s)

Runner Up: Roasted Tomato Soup (Ruth’s Chris)

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I know I’ve said this a lot, but this is simply the best New England Clam Chowder I’ve tried. The roasted tomato soup was great, but the “chowdah”at O’Malley’s is simply amazing.

Best Hot Sandwich Winner: Phive All Day (Philly’s: A Taste of Philadelphia)

Runner Up: Ale Roasted Cheese Steak (Lazy Boy Saloon)

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Another two-time winner and with good reason, this is one of the most unique sandwiches out there. Take your traditional Philly and add bacon and secret sauce to it nd you have a Phive All Day. Wonderful.

Best Side Dish Winner: Garlic Balls (PPT’s)

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Another two time winner that is totally unique; doughy, sweet, and full of Garlic. This is a great side to pizza and even a great dish to bring home by itself. Truly deserving.

Best Philly Cheesesteak Winner: Silver Lake Pizza

Runner Up: Tighe’s Tavern

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The final two-time winner, and my favorite Philly that I’ve had, this sandwich from Silver Lake Pizza is top notch, and has yet to be beat (maybe when I visit Philly?)

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That’s it for the Second Annual Pristine Awards, thanks so much for reading and I hope to see you back in the New Year!

 

 

Tighe’s Tavern: Philly Cheesesteak

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Tighe’s Tavern in White Plains is a nice little bar/restaurant that serves one good Philly Cheesesteak.

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Held together by soft, delicious bread, this Cheesesteak utilizes meat in such a way to make it unique. There is a definite fatty element to the meat, as if you were eating an actual steak. This wasn’t unwelcome at all, as it added an extra flavor component to the meat itself. I can honestly say I’ve never had a Philly where I can taste fat in the meat, so this was a nice surprise.

The melted cheese was nice and sweet, the onions, crunchy, and the green peppers were perfect. All together, every ingredient of this sandwich worked very well together and provides another good option for anyone craving a good Philly.

Tighe’s makes good food and is in an easily accessible location (downtown White Plains), so there is really no excuse to not visit; so I hope you do, soon.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com

Connecticut: Philly’s: Phive All Day

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I have to admit that I have been looking forward to reviewing this sandwich ever since I was introduced to it in a Daym Drops video; and now I’m finally able to.

The Phive All Day is an amazing sandwich. Crafted after Daym Drops’ slogan “Five All Day Son!”, it contains “five ounces of rib eye, five pieces of bacon, five pieces of American cheese, onions, McNabb sauce (house made 1000 Island Dressing) and a little bit of (cheese) whiz.” So, what does this monster sandwich look like?

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Click on the picture for an up close and personal look

Look at the way that bacon shines, and the way the melted cheese oozes on to and grips the bread, as well as filling every nook, cranny, and crevice of the meat; its a beautiful sight to behold.

The five ounces of rib eye were rich, delicious, and made even better by the rest of the ingredients. The bacon was how all bacon should be; crispy, salty, and all over the place. The melted cheese, both American and Whiz, was creamy and smooth; they penetrated all aspects of the sandwich like a warm blanket of velvety goodness.

The fried onions provided a sweet little crunch, and their McNabb sauce stood out with it’s wonderful flavor, and joined the cheese in permeating every inch of the sandwich (plus as a Redskins fan I do have somewhat of an affinity for Mr. McNabb, no matter how his tenure in D.C. turned out).

Encasing these ingredients is a wonderfully soft selection of bread, joining together all these wonderful flavors that meld so perfectly. This just so happens to be a messy meal as well, so be prepared to have your hands covered in finger-licking goodness.

Eating this hoagie was an absolute joy; the only bad thing is that after writing about it, I really want another one! (sadly, I’m not often in their neck of the woods)

This sandwich is one of the best I’ve ever tasted, and so much credit must be given to Daym Drops and the Boys down at Philly’s; great job guys, I can’t wait to come back, and I hope everyone else does too.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com

New Hampshire: Rock’n Ribfest (Pulled Pork, Sandwiches, etc.)

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Day two of New England week brings us the rest (non-rib portion) of New Hampshire’s awesome Ribfest; we already know that the festival serves up some pretty darn good ribs, but what about some of their other BBQ concoctions?

This review will deal mainly with Pulled Pork; in my opinion, Pulled Pork is one of the big hit or misses in BBQ as not only does the pork need to be tender and finely shredded, but the choice of sauce has to be absolutely right (a part where many places just don’t succeed).

VENDOR ONE: Jack’s Down Home Barbecue 

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My first experience with Jack’s was when I was offered a sample on my way to buy a rack of ribs from Texas Smokehouse; that first bite made me go and order a whole sandwich from Jack’s later in the day, because it only took me one bite to know I had found a winner.

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Jack’s Pulled Pork is tender and slightly juicy, with a really good chew to it; the soft bun absorbs some of the flavor, making the bun better as a result. All of that is good and needed, but the BBQ sauce is what really caught my attention and put the sandwich over the top. The sauce was perfectly spicy, not too much, but not too little; and the spice was the perfect hot edition to the sweet flavored sauce.

I did not get a chance to try Gator’s Pulled Pork Sandwich (something I plan on doing next year as I heard it was really good), but out of the Pulled Pork I did try, Jack’s was simply the best and a must eat for all Ribfest attendees and Pulled Pork lovers.

VENDOR TWO: Butch’s Smack Your Lips BBQ

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This is the part of the review that shakes things up a bit, as it introduces Butch’s Lip Smacker; a combination Pulled Pork, Brisket, and Coleslaw sandwich.

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This is one big, messy sandwich that lives up to its name; it is second only to Jack’s in regards to Pulled Pork and is unique in its own way due to its choice combination. Most of what I said about Jack’s pork can be said about Butch’s as well, minus the sauce (hence why it is second to Jack’s). Butch’s Brisket was tender, juicy, and melts in your mouth; the contrasting flavors and textures of the Pork and Brisket melded well together, and the added cool crunch of the coleslaw finishes off the sandwich nicely.

With this many flavors and textures gracing your taste-buds at once, the Lip Smacker from Butch’s should not be passed up.

VENDOR THREE: Road Hawg – Swine Dining

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Road Hawg introduces us to another unique BBQ creation, the Pulled Pork Ripper; a deep fired hot dog (to the point of the skin almost ripping) topped with Pulled Pork. Our server was a very nice woman who showed us true hospitality and was very friendly, here she is with our Rippers;

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Now for a closer look at the aforementioned Pulled Pork Rippers:

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They call this the Ripper for good reason; the hot dog had a very good rip to it, something that is hard to find with most hot dogs. The pork itself was not Jack’s level, but was still of really good quality and made for a nice edition to the dog; and when you take into account the good amount of thick, ketchup based sauce that was included, the Ripper makes for a really fun, satisfying snack.

Ribfest has a lot more to offer than just ribs, and proved to me that they know how to make other delicious meats as well; I hope everyone is able to try and enjoy these sandwiches and meaty combinations in the years to come.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com

Bliss: The Chooch

20150401_124609Bliss Dairy Bar and Grill in Mahopac NY has a very fun quality to them, as they have chosen to give a bunch of their sandwiches and burgers unique and humorous names; and when I saw a classic hot sandwich designated “The Chooch” (an Italian slang word/insult), I just knew I had to try it.

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As in all truly good hot sandwiches, the bread was soft, but with a slight crisp to it; the meat was tender and juicy, the mozzarella cheese was moist and had a good elasticity. The sandwich also contained a good amount of sautéed onions to add crunch to it; but there was one thing in this sandwich that provided a standout element; the french fries.

The inclusion of the french fries into “The Chooch” really turns this into a legitimate meat and potatoes sandwich; while eating you are noticing all the traditional hot sandwich flavors and then are suddenly hit with a soft and familiar change of taste. The semi salty potato flavor/texture along with the meat, cheese, and onion flavors/textures make for a nice combination and twist on an already good culinary concoction.

In Putnam and looking for a good sandwich? Are you thinking about hitting Subway? Don’t be a Chooch, order one instead! Bliss Dairy Bar and Grill is located at 4 Cherry Lane in Mahopac NY.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com