I eat out more than I should, especially for someone with not enough willpower when it comes to eating things that she shouldn’t. Given how much I travel, I can’t avoid eating out, and there’s a limit to the number of grilled chicken salads that one woman can eat before she wants to set something on fire (I’ve never set any fires outside of candles and fireplaces).
In the last ten days I’ve eaten at two new restaurants that I fell in love with because they facilitate making good choices. I succeeded more than I failed on the good choices front, so I’m going to call both visits wins and vow (again) to do better in the future.
In DC, I met my friend Heather for dinner at Range, a creation of Bryan Voltaggio. I don’t watch Top Chef, but the Wikipedia article on Bryan Voltaggio informs me that he and his brother, Michael Voltaggio, competed against each other in the same season. Michael won, but you shouldn’t let that prevent you from visiting Range.
Go click that link I added above and check out the menu. Delicious, right? Heather had fish, I ordered lamb, and we shared squash and
fried Brussels sprouts on the side. Heather apologized and ate bread, but I don’t expect my dining companions to limit themselves like I’m forced to, and they bake the bread themselves at Range. It would have been a travesty if she hadn’t gotten the bread. We also shared a salted caramel, a gingersnap marshmallow, an earl grey and lavender chocolate, a Mexican vanilla chocolate, and dark chocolate bark (all made in-house) for dessert. If I lived in DC, all of this would be enough to see me wanting to eat there every night, but it got better.
How does it get better? Wine and cocktails. I don’t know a lot about wine, but it turns out I’ve absorbed enough from my friendship with Loraine to know that Range’s wine list is extensive, that someone has put a tremendous amount of thought into it, and that if there’s a markup on the prices, it’s very small. If you order a bottle of Chappellet or Chateau Montelena, you won’t pay much, if anything, over the price that you would if you visited the winery. I would have ordered wine to go with my lamb, but the cocktail list seduced me instead. I drank something called a Vegan Sacrifice, which had scotch, some other stuff (sorry), and a frozen cube of veal stock. They garnish it with a pickled baby carrot. It sounds weird, but holy moly, whoever invented that drink deserves to win some sort of award with a large cash prize. So delicious. I followed the Vegan Sacrifice with a Manhattan. Classic cocktails like martinis and Manhattans are a good test of the skills of the bar staff because they contain just a few ingredients, where the proportions determine whether the cocktails are perfection or a disappointment. The Manhattan at Volt is perfection, plus it arrived with a giant ice cube. I love those giant ice cubes beyond reason.
I could have eaten with Heather at Subway and been happy because I got to see her in person. To catch up with her over a scrumptious meal with heavenly, creative cocktails was an unexpected treat that was so good, it felt like it should be a crime. Luckily it’s not, so if you visit DC, you should make Range a priority.
Last night, I met Alice at Seasons 52 in Plano. I skimmed the menu before I met her. I do this in an attempt to pick something that fits my dietary restrictions at a time when the ambience and fun of the restaurant can’t tempt me into ordering something starchy. I missed the reason the owners call it Seasons 52: they offer a new, seasonal menu each week. I also failed to notice that everything on the menu at Seasons 52 is under 475 calories. You’d think that meant tiny portions or a lack of flavor, but it doesn’t. Alice had a vegetarian day, ordering a small salad and a side of roasted autumn vegetables (parsnips, artichokes, carrots, and onions) and a side of Brussels sprouts as her main meal. I ordered butternut squash soup off of the seasonal menu and pork tenderloin (pork never lets you down), which came with grilled baby portobellos, caramelized cipollinis, broccolini, and polenta. Our meals confused us.
Alice’s salad was not small. If it had come with a protein, it would have been enough for dinner all by itself. My pork originally came with polenta on the side, but I asked them to substitute Brussels sprouts instead. Even with the substitution, neither one us understood how this gigantic plate of food contained fewer than 475 calories. I had enough food leftover for lunch today, and I am not one of those women who forces herself only to eat half of her meal. I am one of those women who eats what’s on her plate until she can’t eat anymore (which is why I’m in the situation I’m in now). We quizzed our poor waiter, expressing doubt about the 475 calorie claim. He pointed out that they don’t drown the food in sauce, and they use scant amounts of oil instead of butter. In fact, the restaurant doesn’t use butter at all, which we couldn’t believe, especially when he brought out dessert.
Desserts at Seasons 52 are tiny – each one fits in a shot glass. Josh, our waiter, brought out a tray with eight shot glasses and described the contents of each one. I know for a fact that neither Alice nor I wanted dessert, but then he brought out that tray with the tiny desserts in which they use no butter, and we broke down. Well, I broke down first and grabbed the pumpkin pie (layers of pumpkin mousse and crumbled gingersnap, which I scooped around), but when Alice saw that you get to take dessert right off the tray, she broke down, too, and selected the raspberry chocolate chip cannoli. Y’all. I cannot resist a tiny dessert. I succumbed at Volt, and I succumbed again at Seasons 52. I regret nothing. (I regret a little bit.)
It makes me happy when I find restaurants like these, where the chefs and sommeliers flex their creativity (Seasons 52 employs a master sommelier who built an excellent wine list) and offer food and drink that don’t just taste good but surprise and delight. I’d love it if you shared some of your favorites, too, because I don’t know how many more grilled chicken salads I can face.