Monday, June 28, 2010

Spring Poste

555 8th St NW @ Hotel Monaco
Washington, DC

Chef Rob Weland of Poste urges visitors to "eat simply and elegantly," and on a recent weeknight visit we did just that. The simplicity of the meal lay in the freshness of its seasonal ingredients. I wouldn't call these dishes simple, though.

My first course was a chilled soup of English peas and nettles, topped with sheep's milk yogurt "sorbet" and tiny crispy lardo croutons. Anyone who thinks peas are bland would be startled by the intense flavors of this soup. It was springtime in a spoon.

I hesitated to order rabbit -- for some reason, I think of this ingredient, of any braised meat, as cold-weather fare. But I was intrigued by the accompaniments, and the result was a happy combination.

The rabbit was braised in red wine and served with caramelized fennel, poppy-seed tagliatelle, and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms. The fennel was a revelation, and the poppy seed was a striking counterpoint to the rabbit. The crispy roasted mushrooms were practically addictive.

I took tiny bites of everything on my plate, trying to make it last longer. I also enjoyed a taste of the buttery asparagus carbonara, with white and green asparagus and lightly charred ramps.

Chef Weland offers farm-market dinners on Thursdays through the summer and fall. Guests accompany Weland to the Freshfarm Market in Penn Quarter and select ingredients for that night's five-course tasting menu. They might also tour the restaurant's on-site organic garden.

Sounds like a good excuse to check out a new farmers' market. Or maybe I'll get a group of friends together for the Poste Roast, a family-style meal served in the garden and highlighting meat and fish spit-roasted over an open fire.

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