Copperwood Tavern

"In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love" - Alfred Lord Tennyson

"In the Spring a young woman's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of truffled mac and cheese" -Ruthie Darling

Each spring, the cherry blossoms lining Washington DC’s Tidal Basin burst into bloom. The day after Easter this year, I found myself walking along the Basin on an absolutely perfect Spring day. The peak bloom period lasts only a few days, and precisely when it happens varies each year so I suppose it was just good fortune on my part. 

I do so miss England in the Springtime, romantic thoughts of England's "green and pleasant land" swim in my head. I know, I know, it is, of course, mainly fantasy as, having just spoken to my Mother, she informed me that it's "absolutely bloody pouring here!" I guess it's easy to forget the overcast drizzle of England when one is so far away. For those of you who don't know (I'm guessing my English friends may not know this), the cherry blossom tress were gifted to the city of Washington in 1912 by Mayor Ozaki of Tokyo City. Nice gift, I'd have just brought wine.

After a touristy spring day hitting up the many monuments and somehow inexplicably getting sunburnt in March (damn this anglo-saxon skin of mine),  we headed to Shirlington Village, VA for a cosy dinner at Copperwood Tavern, a farm to table joint, that is all about local and seasonal offerings.

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Upon being seated, our softly spoken waiter brought us some dainty corn bread muffins to nibble on. To the Brits who aren't familiar with this, it's basically being served cake before your meal, but your Mum can't say anything to you because cake is fine in America at ANY time.  Oh and it's served with butter, naturally. 

A few bites in and we were handed some menus and given time to peruse. The selection had me salivating half way into the appetizers (starters). We were so overwhelmed by the many delicious sounding choices, that we decided to break it down and tackle only our appetizer selection first. Divide and conquer, my friends. We went for the steak tartare, which promised to come topped with a quail's egg and the fried goat's cheese with Virginia ham. 

When the steak tartare appeared I was surprised to see that the quails egg was fried and not served raw, Ah well, one less raw ingredient for my belly to navigate. The steak itself was delicate and well seasoned. It was served with crispy toast which was the perfect accompaniment not to mention an excellent delivery method. The fried goat's cheese was a real treat. The crispy shell and smooth cheese within was complimented by the salty ham and sweet honeycomb that it was served alongside. The whole presentation of this dish reminded me of a ploughman's lunch, but when I remarked this to the waiter he had no idea what I was talking about. Will I ever be able to make myself understood in this country???

After the appetizers were whisked away, we had to decide upon the main event. The portion sizes seemed to be on the large side (for a Brit),  so I decided to have a couple of sides and Mr S went for filet mignon (men and steaks eh?) I chose the truffled mac and cheese and the brussels sprouts with crispy shallots, bacon and maple-mustard vinaigrette. Yeah you'd better believe it sprout lovers! The filet's side dish Mr S chose was the smoked gouda-mashed potatoes. I have never been more proud of him. We ordered the steak medium rare (we're not monsters) and sat patiently in the cosy corner watching the restaurant begin to fill up and buzz, despite it being a Monday. 

When my sides arrived and I saw the level of cheesiness of the mac, I think I broke into a mini applause. It was also a pale yellow colour, not the day-glo orange so favoured in this fine country. The sprouts were sizzling in the pork fat and were sprinkled with the deep fried shallots. The steak appeared with mashed potatoes that were so smooth they could have chatted me up and had me in a cab by the end of the night.

Cutting into the steak, we found it pink and juicy. I did manage to scrounge one sliver from Mr S and it was tasty, but that was about it. He assured me it more than met his expectations. However, the Oscar had to go to the stand-out performance of the night, the brussels sprouts. These babies are a Copperwood bestseller for a reason. The sprouts were cooked until al dente then tossed with strips of bacon and pan juices. The flavour was incredible. A little on the greasy side, but let me say this on the record: I did not care one bit. Salty, smoky, bacony sprouts with crunchy shallots sprinkled liberally on top? YES, a thousand times, yes. The mac and cheese came a very close second though. It contained actually truffle slices and not just the ubiquitous truffle oil that chefs across the world seem to drizzle on everything as if it's the answer to something. Cheesy, gooey and luscious. The pasta used wasn't macaroni however, it was cavatappi, but hey, who's counting? The mashed potatoes were also fantastic, the smoked gouda taste was strong, but in no way overpowering. Moreover, it took a classic and somewhat tired side dish, and really made you made you see it anew. 

The dessert menu was as rich and hearty as the rest of the offerings; brownies, apple dumplings and a cast-iron 'smores dip that allowed you to indulge in this camp fire treat without having to venture into nature - winner! However, after what felt like a rather large dinner (we had leftover's of almost everything) we opted for the seasonal sorbet which turned out to be blueberry ginger. It arrived huddled in a small terracotta dish and as we dug in we found the flavour to be perfectly fine, but the texture slightly odd. It seemed to me to be more of a sauce that had been frozen than a light sorbet. I really can't think of anything to compare it too, perhaps a very dense smoothie?

The meal done and dusted, our waiter returned a final time to help us wrap up our food (so that I could take it with me on my trip back to NYC the next morning). He seemed very insistent that we use separate boxes for each item to which I protested that he should just throw it all in together. He seemed vexed. Am I an animal? Did I lose my gentile British up-bringing? Didn't I have enough to carry what with an overnight bag and that ridiculous easter bonnet? Nevertheless, we left Copperwood very happy, with very full bellies. My kind of place - farm to table, flavorful, earthy food. Liberal amounts of meat and cheese and sprouts from the gods. 

Getting on the bus the next day with the spouts in my take-away box, I sat down and was about to dig in to my leftovers when the smell that emanated from opening the box just a tiny amount was incredible. The sulfurous pong of the sprouts that surrounded me made one woman look at me like I had walked into her house on Thanksgiving and pissed on her turkey and another eye me with pity, like I'd either lost control of my sphincter or simply didn't care. I waited all the way until the Holland Tunnel to eat them. I'd planned to wait until we were off the bus, but when we hit bad traffic I couldn't wait any longer. The sprouts and mac and cheese were just as good, if not better the next day, though my fellow travelers may have begged to differ. 

A huge Thank You to CopperWood Tavern for hosting us. We'll be back again for sure! 

Love,

Ruthie Darling xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter at Fuego Cocina y Tequileria

Easter time for Little Miss Darling growing up in England was about a couple of things, the most important of which was chocolate. We were never a religious household, so church visits dressed in pastels almost never happened. In England, as you may know, it is traditional for older, (and sometimes distant), family members to bestow upon the little ones chocolate easter eggs. These confectionary wonders take the form of an oversized chocolate egg containing more chocolate treasures within. Always Cadbury's (unless you grew up in Islington and your name is Perpetua/Cosmo, then perhaps you received an organic green and black's misery basket), but always Cabury's for my sort. 

Another popular tradition at after-school groups at Easter-time, was the Easter Bonnet Parade. Endless afternoons of fun, cutting and sticking paper and glitter to hats, sewing on silk flowers and enjoying making a terrific mess, before parading up and down the length of a chilly village hall to cooing Mums. This time of year used to be a favourite of mine - chocolate, arts and crafts and, not to mention, a two week school holiday. Bliss. However my enjoyment was somewhat marred one year when I totally forgot that I was supposed to make a bonnet to take with me to my Brownies meeting, (Girl Scouts), that evening for a parade. Panic-stricken, I begged my Mum to let me me skip it. My poor Mother, desperate for an hour's peace no doubt, informed me that despite my protestations, that I would, in fact, be attending the said event. Firmly adding something about 'being responsible', she threw down some card, paper, scissors and tape and told me I had half an hour. Nothing will ever surpass the embarrassment I felt as I paraded up and down that church hall wearing a piece of cardboard with a creme egg strapped to the top with tape. I still awake at night chilled. *Shudder* Silver lining though:  I was allowed to eat the creme egg on the drive home, even though it was before dinner. Ahh the sweet power of invoking parental guilt.

This traumatic event marked the end of my bonnet-parading until last year when my photographer, Denton, suggested I take part in the annual NYC Easter Bonnet Parade on 5th avenue. Okay I thought,  but I am not making the hat - lesson learned on that front. Enter Eve Beglarian. Eve is a downtown composer and dear friend of mine who has, ever since I've known her, had a crazy hat sitting up on a shelf in her studio. I asked her if I could wear said hat in the parade and she "of course!" When I asked where it came from, she told me that it had been a costume piece in a show she had composed the music for. Now, when you look at this hat (see below), it's hard to imagine how this could be used in anything, but if you've listen to Eve's music (and I strongly suggest you do) then you'll understand why my reaction was a shrug and a "mmmkay, cool". 

That was last year. This year, same hat balancing precariously on my head, off I went to the parade. The hat was a hit - especially as I had fixed up the wings a bit with spray paint. When a journalist asked me what the hat was about I told her that I was "walking for one-armed barbies and associated charities". She dutifully noted it down. 

After the parade it was time to head to DC to attend the Cherry Blossom Festival and a dinner at Fuego Cocina y Tequileria. (Try saying that with a mouthful of easter eggs). 

After a "delightful" journey on the not-so-mega-bus, I arrived in Arlington, VA just outside of DC. Hungry and tired, my date and I made our way to the restaurant just as it began to rain. We hurried inside into the large downstairs restaurant which had a bar/canteen vibe. I feared my Louboutins and silk dress may have been over kill, but we were immediately whisked upstairs to a much more high-end looking section with an open kitchen. Having done yoga AND crossfit the day before I just about crawled up the sweeping staircase where we were met by our waiter who was so jolly and animated I felt that he would have been better suited hosting a tv show about waiters rather than actually being one.  

He explained that, although the menu was Mexican, we were to expect much lighter fare than we were probably used to. No heavy sauces or gobs of sour cream everywhere. I was intrigued. We began by sharing the obligatory guacamole and their version of queso fundido which proved to be a combination of chihuahua and oaxaca cheeses baked in a cast iron skillet with crumbled chorizo on top. You're drooling just reading that aren't you? Good, you should. The salty, spicy chorizo against the creamy blistering cheese was perfection. Even the chips they served with, tasted light and crispier than other tortilla chips I'd eaten before. The guacamole was prepared so as to showcase the freshness of the avocado. In fact, fresh is a word Mr S and I kept coming back to throughout the night. There were hints of lime, salt, coriander and tomato but the avocado was the star. 

Choosing an entree proved challenging as we gave consideration to almost everything on the menu, each new item seeming more enticing than the last. I opted for the lobster, shrimp and crab enchiladas with a side of grilled asparagus, whilst Mr S decided upon the special taco of the evening, a salmon taco served with a tomatillo and strawberry salsa, with an accompaniment of pickled veg. The enchiladas arrived in an adorable row of three, with a sauce that covered rather than smothered. The lobster and shrimp were fresh, plump and juicy nestled up in the cheese, that seductively oozed out of the tortillas, adding just the right amount of salty bite. The asparagus were charred and generously seasoned, making them the perfect addition. The tacos faired only slightly less well, with the strawberries feeling like an odd bedfellow to the salmon and pickled tomatillo. However, the salmon was perfectly cooked so we can forgive the the strawberries who erroneously wandered in from a nearby salad. The pickled veg was okay, but nothing special, although we were rather enjoying our game of 'hot pepper russian roulette' - biting into various peppers with abandon and almost immediate regret.  

Now I am not really one for desserts, so bear that in mind when I tell you that the highlight of the meal for me was the trio of sorbets we decided to share. Blood orange, lychee and blackberry tea made up our selection and each spoonful was accompanied by a eyes-closed "mmm" from me. I was enjoying the blood orange so much that Mr S made the very wise decision to let me finish it off. (A fine idea if one wants to continue to be a food blogger's date). 

The sugar still on our lips from the sorbet, the chef appeared bringing us a tray of petit fours. An unexpected and delightful treat! We were told they were; an almond wedding cookie, alfajores (mexican sandwich cookie), a jalapeno jelly dusted in sugar and a mexican magic bar. All were delicious with only the jalapeno jelly falling a little short of the mark - it could have done with being a little sweeter to stand up to the heat of the chili. It could also be that I am just not a huge fan of jelly, as Gareth from The Office once said "I don't trust the way it moves". 

Fresh, flavourful and totally satisfying. We headed out into the rainy easter night and into a cab. Happy, sleepy and ready to put away my one-armed barbie easter bonnet away for another year. 

RD xoxo

Thank you to all of the staff at Fuego Cocina y Tequileria and to Simone Ink for organising the event.

Fuego Cocina y Tequileria

2800 Clarendon Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201

(571) 970-2180