“I Could Live Like This”

I remember a long lunch I had several years ago in the al fresco restaurant at the top of the old Hotel Washington, which had one of the best views in the city: You looked down on the White House, and out over the Washington Monument and the west Mall.

It was one of those perfect spring days, and none of us was eager to go back to work. As I sat there, I said to myself, “I could live like this.” And then I had the epiphany: I do live like this!

This evening was another one of those “I could live like this” nights. Around 7:30, I walked up 18th Street to have dinner in the sidewalk cafe section of the L’Enfant Café & Bar.

I started with a duck confit over white beans and thyme, served in a small mason jar, followed by steak frites with ruby port butter, matchstick fries and chipotle cumin ketchup for dipping.  The food was all right, but, except for the Grand Marnier and caramel dessert crepe, not particularly memorable.  (No pictures.  It was dark, and I don’t use a flash in restaurants except in v special cases.)

What was memorable was the atmosphere. As the menu made clear:

Welcome to L’Enfant, your piece of Paris
right here in DC …. True to Parisian café style,
we have a small & intimate dining space
catered from a petit kitchen. Please be
patient with your order during busy times.
Instead, relax and enjoy the view of the
surrounding crowd—we attract some of the
most interesting people around.

The service was…French.  My waitress was charming and unrushed.  Steak frites is about as simple a dish as you can make, but the kitchen took so long that the waitress comped me for a second glass of Bordeaux Rouge.  And it was perfectly all right–it reminded me of long, leisurely meals in cafes in Paris, where they point is to enjoy the experience rather than to get in and out as quickly as possible (as is often the case in a certain large, North American country which will not be named here.)

In so many ways, Europeans live better than we do.


Krakow – La Fontaine

And now we get to La Fontaine, and one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten.

A note here:  I use natural light for my restaurant picture, and never ever ever use a flash, to avoid disturbing my fellow patrons.  I made an exception for La Fontaine, because I had the room to myself, and because the meal was incredible.

La Fontaine

Not an overwhelming first impression, is it?  But incredible thing happen inside.

My Dining Room at La Fontaine

The Amuse Bouche

Raw vegetables and olives w/a rich dipping sauce.

My appetizer was a group of small tapas-like dishes.

Filet et Escalope de Foie Gras de Canard a la Plancha, Pommes Pont Neuf

This was amazing.  Perfectly grilled breast of duck and superb foie gras (I know.  Go away.) w/cranberries and a selection of sauces.  “Pommes Pont Neuf”, not pictured, are simply thick french fries.  Note the “plate”–it’s a slab.

Krakow – Figa z Makiem

Before I left for Poland, I’d read a lot of reviews of most of the restaurants I visited. I was on my way to another restaurant when I read the game-rich menu for Figa z Makiem, and I decided to take a chance on it.

It paid off beautifully. Excellent meal!

Figa z Makiem

Figa z Makiem Interior

The decor gave a subtle hint that Figa z Makiem served hearty meals.

Carrot and Coriander Cream Soup

Goulash of Wild Boar w/Mushrooms, Buckwheat, and Pickled Cucumber