Counter Intelligence

The Week’s Eats

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on October 9, 2009

This week’s eats included a Wednesday night at The Occidential, where I was smitten with Chef Scruggs’ fried chicken two ways. (It was on my mind following the day’s New York Times article, apparently.) Served with red sour cherries, candied orange peel and a chamomile tea glace, Rodney Scruggs says the dish really comes to life with The Saffron King’s orange peel and spices. For a Wednesday, the place was packed. Despite the economy, The Occidential has apparently about doubled its revenues this year. While the closing of the Willard Room may be a factor, it’s no secret Scruggs is a terrific chef, having worked under Jeffrey Buben, Roberto Donna and Francesco Ricchi. Impressive for a year when the economy is in the tank.

This week, Scruggs showcases his fall menu, which includes a white pumpkin soup. I loved that his wife Lisa’s group is making desserts via The Swiss Bakery. If I were opting for dessert for dinner, I might consider ordering The Crunch Bar or Chef Rodney’s Brown Cow– a very dark, house-made chocolate sorbet, served with Old Dominion Root beer in a float cup with an extra long spoon.

And then last night, CityZen sommelier Andy Myers informed us the Chef Ziebold was working the fish station. Needless to say, I was glad to have ordered the bass served with a beet reduction and beet greens served almost like dolmade, tightly packed, cigar shaped. One dish is better than another at CityZen, where last night’s entrees on the bar menu also included shoat shoulder: a rather large, caramelized, glistening, delicious pork brownie.

Ziebold joked he was slammed all night. “There were like two meat orders and the rest of the night was fish! They’re telling tables I was on the line.” Myers was full of stories about Ziebold, as well as his own late-night exploits, particularly when he was caught this past summer by sous chef Makoto Hamaura, crouched down in an abandoned lot near his house. When Makoto asked what he was doing, Myers said had found a stray squash plant there and had been helping himself to the blossoms.

Myers wasn’t just spinning tales and talking ink, though I encouraged tattoo talk, after complimenting his wife’s which I had seen while she was DJ’ing at the opening of Sou’Wester.  He was pouring lovely wines for fall, including two reds from the Tempranillo grape– one oaked, big and tannic, the second, from the coast, bright and acidic.

My favorite was when he led me to an elegant white Burgundy when I asked for an ideal fall white when we first arrived.


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