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10 March 2006

Eating badly in the States

I've just got back from a trip to the States.  Ninety per cent of the food I ate was awful.  I'm not saying all food in the States is awful, just that which I ate.  I take a considerable amount of responsibility for that, I fed myself far too much trash because work was frantic and it was the nearest thing to hand so ended up being shoved down the gob.

I went to one or two supposedly decent restaurants and wasn't impressed, that was especially the case with Maestro at the Ritz Carlton at Tysons Corner, just outside of Washington DC.  To me it felt like the chef was trying way too hard to get noticed and it didn't really work.  My starter of mozzarella and tomato was very oddly presented on one long plate with three bowls sunk into it.  In each bowl was one part of the dish: the mozzarella, the tomato and a salsa verde.  The cheese wasn't great, the olive oil drenching it was tasteless and the tomatoes were nothing to write home about.  I can't remember anything about the salsa.  The main dish of sea bass with mushrooms served three ways was fine, but unnecessarily finicky.  The mashed potato served in a mini-copper sauce pan was good, but chef was aping Robuchon and it didn't work.  He needed to use way more butter in that mash.  My dessert of strawberries was good enough - although, strawberries in March, what was I thinking? 

One real surprise and delight was Dunkin' Donuts coffee.  I had read on Opinionated About (registration required) that Dunkin' Donuts had good coffee.  I was sceptical, but noticed an outlet at the airport yesterday and decided to try it out.  It was excellent.  The coffee was smooth, with a good kick.  Not the burned jet fuel you're often served or the insipid brown-water from Starbucks.  For the record, I had eaten so much rubbish (processed cheese, chocolate, fizzy drinks, crisps, pretzels etc etc) I couldn't face a donut.  So it was just one coffee to go.  Although those glazed donuts were tempting.

I feel sluggish and weighed down (more so than normally) by saturated fats. The combination of jet-lag, loads of work and general exhaustion is a nightmare when it comes to eating well. What I should have been having was fruit and veg, what I ended up eating was M&M's and Coke. I really need to go on a diet.

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Ah yes. Dunkin' Donuts coffee. One of the U.S.'s dirty little secrets. With all the foo-foo coffee houses springing up with every urban renewal project in the States, none seem to have mastered the simple act of serving a decent cup of plain ol' joe like Dunkin' Donuts. And it pains me to say that, because I frequently rant against the chains. Oh well. And next time you're in D.C., spurn the pricey joints, hop the subway to Dupont Circle and find Zorba's Café (yeah, bad name, after the Anthony Quinn movie and book). But it's a family-owned joint, with good, cheap Greek food. And good, cheap wine. I go there for at least one meal whenever I'm in D.C.

Lewis
Thanks for the heads-up on Zorba's.

Your comment has just reminded me that I did have a great meal at Sakana, a sushi place on P Street. The vegetable tempura was particularly good. I'm going to post about it as it was a highlight of my trip. I guess I must have been too jet lagged to remember it when I initially posted.

Yeah, you're right the food in US is sometimes very awful. If you want to eat good and high quality foods you must to extract more money... For example, I eat more food I cook because it is healthier, but also a lot more expensive...

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