Reaching adulthood meant trying new and different cuisines. It was the 1980s, and I happily remember the first times I tried French food (at La Guinguette in Merrifield, VA and Chez Froggy in Arlington, VA, in the early 1980s), Afghan (Panjshir, which used to be near the corner of Broad St. & Washington St., but further to the northwest along Rte. 7 closer to Tyson’s, on Broad St. between Spring & West Sts.), and Greek (in Falls Church, on Broad St., the name now forgotten, but where Dogwood Tavern stands today if my memory is correct).
I lived in Bailey’s Crossroads, VA from 1979 until 1989, so explored dining experiences from there. I worked in Falls Church, VA, from 1984 until 1989, and from that office I could easily walk to both the Panjshir Afghan restaurant and the Greek place for lunch or dinner. I enjoyed introducing my parents to both places. To this day, I love both cuisines.
In an Afghan restaurant, I always look for the Quabili Pallow — a dish with rice, raisin and carrots, covering chunks of lamb in a meat sauce. Other dishes we might order, depending on how many are at the table, include Aush (soup with vegetables and noodles), Aushak (steamed dumplings and meat sauce), and Sambosay Goshti (fried pastry triangles with beef, chickpeas and parsley).
For Greek food, I like the Dolmades Avgolemono (grape leaves stuffed with rice, mint, and beef in a lemon sauce), Saganaki (fried Kasseri cheese), Kalamarikia Tiganita (fried calamari), Spanakopita (spinach pie), and Pastitsio (meat and béchamel sauce in pasta layers). My favorite of all, is perhaps the dessert Galaktoboureko, a concoction of custard in filo, covered in a warm sugary syrup.
I also got my first experiences of high-end dining in downtown D.C. In the late 1980s until the mid-1990s, I was fortunate enough to be the client of a fellow who had an expense account, who came into town about once a month, and I often got to have dinner with him at some of the best spots in the city: Cantina D’Italia, i Ricchi, Le Lion D’or, and Maison Blanche, all of them gone today except for i Ricchi.
At Maison Blanche, I remember having dinner one night across the room from 15th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Warren Burger. I loved the steak tartare in that place, prepared table-side. But if I could go back to just one of those four spots, it would be the culinary-home of Chef Jean-Pierre Goyenvalle: Le Lion D’or. The room was below street level, and as you descended the stairs, you overlooked the whole place in all its elegance. The restaurant was beautiful, as was the service and the food. I think that’s where I first fell in love with soufflés — Chef Goyenvalle once made an orange-flavored soufflé for Julia Child on her PBS program Dinner with Julia — perhaps that was the one I recall him making with Grand Marnier.
Around 1989, my job moved from Falls Church, VA up to Rockville, MD, (or North Bethesda, as the locals preferred to call the neighborhood just north of the Beltway) and I moved north as well. There I really got to discover and enjoy Jewish food; Rockville was known for many years as the center of the Washington-area Jewish population (according to Wikipedia, and folks I’ve known). I lived in a high-rise across the road from the Grosvenor Metro station (now called the Grosvenor-Strathmore station). I was within walking distance of the Grosvenor Market, located on the ground floor of another high-rise (it’s still there today). There, they had a wonderful deli, with chopped liver, and various flavors of rugelach and knishes. Just a few miles to the north was Loehmann’s Plaza, home to a wonderful deli called Hoffman’s. It had an amazing selection of dishes and I think their pastrami sandwich was one of the best I ever had. Unfortunately, it’s been closed for a number of years now.
To be continued… ♦