Tasty, International Tapas in NoVa: Cuisine Solutions Dines at Evo Bistro

The foodie scene in Northern Virginia is definitely rising with the edition of Evo Bistro. Located in the heart of McLean, Evo offers tapas with an international flare – drawing on flavors from France, Italy, Spain and Morocco. Wine is also a central focus at Evo Bistro, where diners can choose from an extensive list, as well as a unique wine tasting bar – allowing guests to experiment with different wines from around the globe.  

Evo Bistro’s decor is warm and inviting. The color scheme reflects muted, earthy tones accented with vivid, brightly colored art featuring wine still lifes hanging from the walls. A cozy bar area makes for a great happy hour spot, where guests can enjoy Evo’s wine selections and nosh on delicious small plates. Our party of two was greeted by a friendly host and seated in the dining room immediately. Our lovely server Dani took our wine order promptly and explained that the menu mostly consists of tapas, or small plates. 3-4 plates would be equivalent to the portion size of an entrée, so we spared no time and placed an order for a few tapas. 

Dani quickly brought out our first order from the kitchen – Butternut Squash Ravioli served with Mushrooms and Sage Cream. The mild flavors of Butternut Squash offset the rich, creamy taste of the Sage Cream and made for a delightful first plate. 

Next up came a traditional Spanish tapas plate, Croquetas de Jamon y Pollo. This small fried roll filled with Chicken and Serrano Ham was served over a delicious Jalapeno Aioli. Presented beautifully on an attractive glass plate, the savory bite-sized Croquetas were fried to perfection and the Jalapeno Aioli added a spicy kick to the dish.

After polishing off the Croquetas, Champinones, were brought to our table. A classic tapa commonly served in Spain, the large, fresh Portobello Mushrooms were stuffed with a creamy Vermont Goat Cheese. The portion size was perfect, and the pairing of Goat Cheese with Mushrooms was a tasty combination. 

Shortly after, Dani brought out Saman, or Bacon wrapped Quail, which was simply divine. The flavors of the quail and bacon complimented each other well. Served over a Sweet Potato Mash with Port Wine Sauce, flavors of Garlic, Olive Oil and Thyme were present in the dish as well.

To top off our dinner, we could not resist in sharing an order of Provencale Moules Frites. Served in a broth of Tomatoes, Garlic, Olive Oil and White Wine, the Mussels were very fresh and the accompanying fries were great to dip in the flavorful broth. 

For dessert, we ended our delicious meal with a Pear Tart. This lovely puff pastry was covered with a thin layer of Almond Creme accompanied with Pear Slices, Apricot Icing and a dollop of Vanilla Ice Cream. The sweet tart was the perfect ending to a fantastic dinner.

Our terrific server Dani notified Manager Gerry Keating that our dinner would be blogged for Cuisine Solutions. Gerry came right over to the table, sat with our party for a bit and had a great conversation about the restaurant. Compliments of Evo Bistro, we received the Pear Tart on the house! When all is said and done, fantastic food and outstanding staff and service is what Evo Bistro is all about. Cuisine Solutions will definitely be back in for more!

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Battle of the Cheesesteak: Cuisine Solutions Dines at Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s King of Steaks

Thousands of tourists flock to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to visit some of the most historic landmarks in the United States – the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and the U.S. Mint to name a few. However, for the avid foodie, a trip to Philly is not complete without a stop to Geno’s Steaks or Pat’s King of Steaks (or both) for a Philly Cheesesteak. Located right across the street from the other in South Philly, Geno’s and Pat’s are Philly institutions and have been in business since 1966 and 1930, respectively. Pat’s history is evident the moment upon arrival – a large sign (pictured below) depicting Pat’s influence in how the cheesesteak came to be displays proudly out front.

When approaching the line to order, there’s a humorous sign out front explaining the proper protocol in cheesesteak ordering.  

Moments later, Pat’s Cheesesteak is ready to eat. We opted for the cheesesteak ‘wit’ and cheez whiz. I was glad to see that Pat’s doesn’t skimp on meat, judging by the generous portion on the cheesesteak. With the onions and cheez whiz, the cheesesteak overall was hearty, filling and very tasty.    

After polishing off the cheesesteak at Pat’s, we walked right over to Geno’s for a cheesesteak comparison. A bit flashier on the outside, Geno’s Steaks has a rich history in Philly as well. Geno’s has been family owned since 1966 and handed down through the generations in the Vento family.  

Geno’s has a similar ordering process to Pat’s – stand in line, indicate with or without onions and what kind of cheese. We also ordered cheese fries with our steak. After opening up the sandwich wrapping, you can see the differences in Geno’s right away – less meat, but jam-packed with flavors from the whiz and onions. The cheese fries were piping hot, delicious and very cheesy!  

It’s a tough call on whether Pat’s or Geno’s has a better cheesesteak. However, visiting both institutions is an experience in itself and definitely a must if you’re in Philadelphia.

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Filed under Cheese Fries, Cheesesteak, Geno's Steaks, Pat's King of Steaks, Pennslyvania, Philadelphia

Mexican Cuisine with a Modern Twist: Cuisine Solutions Dines at La Sandia

Chef Richard Sandoval has truly become an entrepreneurial force in the restaurant industry. Sandoval’s authentic, Mexican food quickly resonated with diners worldwide, with locations ranging from Virginia to Dubai. La Sandia, with outposts in Denver, Santa Monica and Tysons Corner, adheres to Sandoval’s Latin influences, while adding modern flavors and techniques. In Virginia, La Sandia is located within Tysons Corner Center amid other high-end chains. However, the restaurant’s chic design decor – dark wood tables and walls contrasting with pops of vibrant color – really makes La Sandia stand out amongst the rest.

On this dinner occasion, our party of two was quickly seated and offered complimentary chips and salsa. La Sandia’s drink menu consists of traditional Mexican cocktails (Mojitos, Sangria, Margaritas, etc.), as well as a Tequila selection. However, the majority of the cocktails have an interesting twist. One such drink, the Spicy Orange Margarita (pictured below), is a blend of El Jimador Tequila infused with Chile Serrano, Fresh Orange and Sour Mix. Garnished with Salt, Lime and a Jalapeño Slice, the Spicy Orange Margarita packs some serious heat, while still retaining sweet and sour notes from the Fresh Orange and Sour Mix. The ‘Sangria de La Sandia’ is a much more mild cocktail, but still flavorful and delicious. A mix of Red Wine, Mango, Apple, Pineapple, Orange & Apple Juices, the fresh chunks of fruit added a sweet flavor overall, as well as a refreshing touch to the drink.La Sandia’s menu is much like their cocktail list – traditional selections with a modern edge. One can find Enchiladas and Tacos alongside chef’s specials like Chicken Mole Poblano, Achiote Salmon and Chile Relleno. We started with Tortilla Soup, served with Guajillo, Crema Fresca, Avocado and Panela Cheese. Delicious and zesty, the soup had flavors of heat from the Guajillo Chili. However, the spiciness was well-balanced with the mild, creamy flavor and texture of the Crema Fresca and Avocado.Along with the Tortilla Soup, we also ordered the Chipotle Barbecued Chicken Salad. Plated over Mixed Greens, the BBQ Grilled Chicken Breast was very moist. The salad was served with fresh Tomato, Corn, Panela Cheese, and Black Beans. Topped with Cilantro Ranch Dressing, the generous portion of the Chipotle Barbecued Chicken Salad had great, bold flavors.La Sandia has a variety of Fajita choices including Chicken, Skirt Steak and Shrimp, served with fresh Bell Peppers, Citrus Marinated Onion, Guacamole, Mexican Rice, Charro Beans and Flour Tortillas. Having already polished off the soup and salad starters, we decided to split the Shrimp Fajitas. Presented sizzling in an iron skillet, the Grilled Shrimp themselves were large, juicy and flavorful. We particularly enjoyed the accompanying Achiote-Citrus Herb Marinade and Salsa Verde to spice up the flavors of the Shrimp.  At the end of the meal, we couldn’t resist ordering dessert – especially when Banana Empanadas are on the menu. The warm Banana Turnover was coated with a delicious layer of Cinnamon Sugar. Plated with Vanilla Ice Cream topped with thick caramel Cajeta Sauce, the presentation and sweet flavors were outstanding and made for a traditional, enjoyable end to our meal.  La Sandia is a great spot to dine for the best of both traditional, yet modern Mexican cuisine. Chef Richard Sandoval really captures the authentic flavors of Mexico with a modern, elevated flare.

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Filed under chefs, cooking, cuisine solutions, restaurants, Richard Sandoval, sous-vide, Tysons Corner, Virginia

Authentic, Fast-Casual Food in Downtown DC: Cuisine Solutions Dines at Breadline

For the 9-5er, lunch hour during the week in downtown Washington D.C. can be a bit intimidating. With so many fast-casual chains popping up around the city, the decision process is downright overwhelming. However, if you’re looking for quick service, creative food and the most delicious baguette in all of D.C., look no further then Breadline. Located in the midst of a bustling business area on Pennsylvania Avenue, Breadline strives to serve “authentic and thoughtful food.” Much of the menu has international flare, with uniques options like piadines and falafels. Yet the underlying focus of Breadline’s menu is none other than…bread! Made fresh daily, the secret recipe is unlike any in town – the outer layer is perfectly crisp, while retaining a soft and light inside.

Our party of 3 walked in for lunch at 12:30 – and it was packed! The open floor plan was filled with people waiting in line for soups, salads and sandwiches. After placing our order, we received our food in no time at all and grabbed a table in the upper level seating area. Pictured below is a salad bowl of Curry Chicken and Tabouleh over greens. The Curry Chicken was delicious and mild. The Curry added an exotic element to the salad, and the accompanying diced fruit offered a surprising crunch. Tabouleh, a traditional Middle Eastern dish, worked well on the salad alongside the Curry Chicken. A tasty mix of Couscous, Tomato, Parsley and Olive Oil, the Tabouleh was fresh and flavorful.                  

Along with the salad, I ordered a large cup of one of the two soup specials at Breadline that day – Tomato Saffron. Served piping hot, the soup was rich and a lovely golden red color. The heartiness of the Saffron and Tomato blend was undeniably good. The soup was also served with a delicious roll – perfect for dipping.    

My fellow dining companions opted to order from Breadline’s extensive sandwich menu, settling on the Chicken with Goat Cheese and the Chicken with Guacamole Sandwiches. The Chicken with Goat Cheese (pictured below) was prepared to order and served hot on Breadline’s outstanding baguette. The Chicken was moist and the soft spread of Goat Cheese had a distinct and delicious tangy flavor.

Like the Chicken and Goat Cheese, the Chicken and Guacamole Sandwich was made to order and served hot. The sandwich was very good, particularly the Guacamole, which had a mild flavor and was freshly made with ripe avocados.  

Along with two daily soup specials, Breadline offers a daily rotation of sandwich specials. We had to try one of the selections for the day – Lamb Piadine. Served in a warm rolled flatbread, the Lamb itself was juicy and tender with a spicy kick.   

After finishing our meal, a kind Breadline staffer brought us out a special treat. Referred to as “Galette des Rois” (“King’s Cake”), this French traditional dessert celebrates the Epiphany. The sweet cake was thin, moist and a fantastic way to end our delicious lunch.   

Our lunch excursion to Breadline was wonderful! A truly authentic experience, Breadline offers a substantial menu with various selections for the meat lover, vegetarian and everyone in between. If you’re looking for quality fast-casual fare in Washington DC, then Breadline is the perfect choice!

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Filed under Breadline, chefs, cooking, Curry Chicken, Goat Cheese, Guacamole, Lamb Piadine, restaurants, Tabouleh, Washington, DC

Restaurant Week in Northern Virginia: Cuisine Solutions dines at Chef Geoff’s

Chef Geoff’s is regarded by many as a Washington D.C. institution. With three locations around the D.C. area, this bustling chain of restaurants doesn’t pull any punches. Guests can always expect creative, delicious modern American fare. After opening a successful post of his namesake original restaurant on New Mexico Avenue, Chef Geoff expanded to a spot on 13th street in downtown D.C., followed by a location in Tysons Corner as well. Since opening last year, Chef Geoff’s has been wildly popular among Northern Virginia diners. The menu at Chef Geoff’s is quite substantial, offering options like “Lil’ Snacks” and “Pizzas” alongside “Burgers and Sandwiches,” “Simple Meats and Fish” and “Dinner Favorites.”

Our Friday night reservation also happened to be during Restaurant Week. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that Chef Geoff’s offers their entire menu to choose three courses from, as opposed to just a small prix fixed menu. When we arrived at 6:15, the large bar area was packed with happy hour guests enjoying crafted cocktails and the 30 beers on tap. Our party of two was seated promptly at a booth in one of various dining spaces. The interior is clean and modern looking, with dark wood tables and muted color tones. We were greeted by our friendly server Ann who took our cocktail orders – the Cidar Sipper Sangria and “Silver Bells.”       The Cidar Sipper Sangria blends Orange Liqueur, White Wine, House Made Four-Spice Syrup, Fresh Apple Cidar, Lemon and Cranberry Juice. Served in a wine glass, the composition of flavors was very light. Fresh cut wedges of pineapple and raspberries definitely complimented the drink’s taste. Chef Geoff’s seasonal “Silver Bells” cocktail is a mix of Silver Tree Vodka, Cointreau, Fresh Lemon, White Cranberry Juice, Citrus Syrup and Dried Cranberries. Served in a martini glass, the cocktail had a strong, tart taste. The Dried Cranberries at the bottom of the glass added a nice touch as well.  After enjoying our cocktails, Ann took our order for appetizers. The Edamame with Ponzu-Chili Sauce came out from the kitchen first. Beautifully presented in a wooden bowl, the Edamame themselves were large and still warm. The citrus-based Ponzu Sauce was delicious for dipping and the added Chili really gave it a kick. After polishing off the Edamame, we received the Hoisin BBQ Duck, served with accompanying Scallion Crepes and Pickled Vegetables. After constructing the Crepe with the fillings, the first bite was jam-packed with flavors from the Asian-inspired BBQ Duck. The Pickled Vegetables also added color and crunch to the Crepe.We enjoyed the two previous appetizers so much that we also ordered the Jamaican Jerk Chicken Skewers. Served with a fruity Tropical Salsa, the Jerk Chicken was moist and flavorful, with notes of spicy heat.     For the main course, we each ordered the Lemongrass Mussels and Fisherman’s Stew. The Mussels, pictured above, was served in a Red Curry Coconut Broth with Ginger and Shrimp Toast. The elements in the Broth reflected Thai flavors, with ingredients like Coconut and Red Curry. The broth itself was not overpowering or spicy, but actually quite balanced and subtle.  The Fisherman’s Stew was very hearty, combining Rockfish, Shrimp, Mussels and Chorizo in a rich Tomato Broth. Served with a side of Garlic Toast, the seafood was succulent, tender, and seeped with flavor from the tasty Broth.  For dessert, we finished off the meal with a Dark Chocolate Espresso Tart and Traditional Carrot Cake. Topped with Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, the Tart was dense and decadent. The Traditional Carrot Cake was moist and served with a delicious Cream Cheese frosting. Plated alongside Pineapple-Dulce de Leche Ice Cream, the Carrot Cake is a great non-chocolate option for diners.

Dining at Chef Geoff’s was a wonderful experience. The ambiance, service and food were all excellent. Choosing a restaurant for Restaurant Week can be hit or miss, but Chef Geoff’s will definitely surpass guests expectations – and then some.

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Filed under carrot cake, Chorizo, cidar sipper sangria, citrus syrup, cointreau, cranberry juice, dark chocolate expresso tart, dried cranberries, edamame, Fisherman's Stew, fresh apple cider, fresh lemon, Garlic Toast, Ginger, Hoisin BBQ Duck, Jamaican Jerk Chicken, Lemongrass Mussels, mint chocolate chip ice cream, mussels, orange liqueur, Pickled Vegetables, pineapple-dulce de leche ice cream, ponzu-chile sauce, Red Curry Coconut Broth, Rockfish, Scallion Crepes, Shrimp, Shrimp Toast, silver tree vodka, Tomato Broth, Tropical Salsa, white cranberry juice, white wine

Whimsical Ambiance with Fresh, Local Fare: Cuisine Solutions dines at The Happy Rooster

When visiting Philadelphia, there’s so many great food options for out-of- towners, from the landmark Philly cheesesteak spots to the various fine dining establishments in the city. However, if you’re looking for a restaurant that combines the best of both Philly’s history and local food, look no further than The Happy Rooster. Located in Center City, the Happy Rooster opened its door in 1968 as an old boy’s club until being converted into a restaurant/bar. Executive Chef Jason Goodenough’s seasonal menu at The Happy Rooster showcases his affinity for locally sourced produce and fresh ingredients.    

       

The ambiance inside The Happy Rooster is eclectic and decorative. The restaurant features dark wood and dim lighting, with red votive candles serving as a source for the dining room’s lighting. Guests cannot help but notice the various collectible rooster memorabilia lining the walls.                                                                                                                                         

        

We started off with the Sweet Potato Soup, served with a dollop of Crème Fraîche. The soup was warm, thick and hearty, filled with the delicious flavor of Sweet Potato. Our served suggested we stir the Crème Fraîche into the soup for optimal taste. The Crème Fraîche added a creamy element to the soup and complimented the Sweet Potato flavor well.  

For the main course, we stuck to seafood and each ordered the Atlantic Salmon and Lobster Roll. The Atlantic Salmon, topped with Bread Crumb Crust, was nicely grilled and browned on top. The Salmon was served with Caramelized Brussel Sprouts. The caramelization process minimized the often bitter flavor of Brussel Sprouts, and added a rich, sweet flavor. 

The Lobster Roll, pictured below, utilized fresh lobster meat and was tasty and delicious. The Roll was served with fresh-cut French Fries and a side of Ketchup.  

We finished the meal with a selection of six Zepoles. These deep-fried dough balls were topped with Powdered Sugar and served with a spoon of Dark Chocolate for dipping. Warm and delicious, the bite-sized desserts were the perfect end to our dinner at The Happy Rooster.   

Our meal at The Happy Rooster was definitely a one of a kind dining experience. While the restaurant remains a landmark for Philadelphia, Chef Goodenough has refined The Happy Rooster’s menu with a focus on fresh, local cuisine in Center City.

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Filed under Atlantic Salmon, Caramelized Brussel Sprouts, Chef Jason Goodenough, chefs, cooking, Crème Fraîche, Dark Chocolate, french fries, Lobster Roll, Philadelphia, restaurants, sous-vide, sweet potato soup, The Happy Rooster, zeppole

Simple Food with a Rich Background: Cuisine Solutions dines at The Majestic

The Majestic offers rustic American fare that focuses on simple, locally sourced food. Rich in history, the Majestic Cafe opened in 1932 on King Street in Old Town Alexandria. After various closings/reopenings over the years, the Majestic Cafe was acquired by the owners of another Alexandria-based restaurant, Restaurant Eve, in 2007 and reopened as The Majestic. Under the reins of Executive Chef Shannon Overmiller, The Majestic compiles a seasonal selection for the lunch and dinner menus, and well as serving a traditional “Nana’s Sunday Dinner,” with classic dishes that change monthly. January, for instance, has a Red Wine Pot Roast, Roasted Vegetables, Creamy Polenta, Radicciho Salad with Pears, Pecans, Balsamic and Roquefort.

When initially approaching the restaurants, guests are  immediately drawn to the historical signage outside the restaurant – truly elevating the history and nostalgia of The Majestic.     

On this lunch outing, we were greeted graciously by the friendly host and promptly seated. Shortly after, our server placed our drink and appetizer orders. Not only were our house-made spicy ginger sodas, pictured below, absolutely delicious, but the accompanying straws made the presentation fun and added a creative touch.  

We shared the Chicken Liver Mousse to start. Served with Country Style Toast Points, Pear and White Grape Chutney and a simple salad, the Mousse’s rich texture and taste paired nicely with the sweet Chutney on the Toast Points. The dish was definitely a standout and excited us for the next plates.

The Scallop Salad, plated with Arugula, Nicoise Olives, Potatoes, Roasted Onion, Orange Segments and Lemon Vinaigrette, was a zesty blend of flavors. The Scallops themselves were seared to perfection and lightly browned on top.

The Local Red Snapper, served with Fried Oysters, Ratatouille and Beurre Blanc Sauce, was also very tasty and perfectly grilled. The rich and buttery Beurre Blanc Sauce complimented the fish well. 

We also ordered a side of House Cut Fries accompanied with Ketchup, Aioli and Rose Sauces. The fries were crispy and fresh, and the three dipping sauces allowed for a great variety of tastes.

Overall, the service, food and ambiance at The Majestic were really outstanding. While the delicious food speaks for itself, The Majestic’s tradition and history provides guests with an added bonus to the excellent dining experience.

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Filed under Aioli and Rose Sauce, Arugula, chefs, Chicken Liver Mousse, Chutney, cooking, Country Style Toast Points, Lemon Vinaigrette, Nicoise Olives, Orange Segments, Pear, Potatoes, restaurants, Roasted Onion, Scallop Salad, sous-vide, The Majestic, Virginia, White Grape