Saturday, September 30, 2006

Fat All The Way Around

Spend last evening at "Little Puff 2006" - the annual charity fundraiser and cigar event staged by W.C. Draper Tobacco in Washington, D.C.. The event was held on the rooftop of 101 Constitution Ave and hosted by Charlie Palmer's Steak. If you ever have the opportunity to view The District from the roof, I highly recommend it - the view is spectacular. Last night was cool, crisp and perfectly clear. Dramatic views of The Capitol and the surrounding buildings. It's quite impressive.

If you've never been to these kinds of cigar events, it's an interesting sight to behold: mostly grown men (and women of all sizes and augmentations) standing around drinking premium alcoholic beverages, smoking like it's going out of style - and nary a cigarette in sight (thank Jesus). Even though I had been to these kinds of events before and usually don't find them too interesting, the thought of eating food catered by Palmer was enough to seal the deal for me. Some sort of fried lobster balls on a stick (deelish) and other appetizers I don't remember were topped off with roasted pig served with a wonderful red wine reduction, au gratin potatoes and a serious helping of rice and beans. Later, when the rice and beans ran out, they brought out their buttery mashed potatoes that had perfect texture and just rich in butter - just the way I like 'em.

But really, I could care less about the event, the cigars or Carlos Fuente, Jr (who I chatted with briefly to learn more about the Forbidden X cigars I see at Casa Fuente in Las Vegas and suspected that the girls there were giving me the wrong info - I was right). I've been smoking cigars for over ten years now and I know what I like and I really don't need a lot of fodder filling up my humidor. Just give me boxes of Paul Garmirian Belicoso Maduro, Montecristo #2 Habano, Cohiba Siglo IV Habana or Partagas Serie D No. 4 Habana and I'm happy. The real reason for this blog-ation is the food.

The food at the event was nice but since you're mashed in with two hundred other people waiting to feed and then standing there trying to eat off your tiny plate while holding your drink, smoking your cigar and not losing the bag of cigars you received for your $125, it's almost impossible to give your food the attention it deserves, nor is it possible to satiate your hunger pangs.

With that in mind, the affable David and I decided to hit Charlie Palmer's main dining room.

The dining room closes at 10pm. It was 10:06pm. At first they were declining us but when they realized that we were with the party on the roof they accommodated us. Nice.

Charlie Palmer's is quite a bit different than I expected. It's very contemporary in decor and styling. Chic and classy while still being comfortable. Palmer's follows the lead of chefs like Keller and Trotter by dressing their servers in business suits and the bus staff in dark shirts. It's a sharp look and everyone is friendly while maintaining a respectful tone. It's high-end service they way I prefer.

The Menu. Forget the duck. Forget the chicken. Or that stupid salmon entree that steakhouses always want to offer. Note to non-beef eaters: get the hell out of a steakhouse if you don't eat meat! Give me the richestm, fattiest food because I'm going to spend some money and get down to some grinding!

There was an interesting shellfish appetizer that cost $58. Sounds good but maybe half a Benjamin for an appetizer is a bit much - especiallly when there's foie gras on the menu. That would be it: the foie gras. Hudson Valley Foie Gras sauteed with prunes and onions for $21. It was good. It was succulent. The texture of the foie was like meat. Just pure fatty goodness. Those Chicago Aldermans can burn in hell for banning it. It was good. It was hellaciously good. But, dare I say it? I think I like the foie gras at Les Halles better...

With The Affable Dave ordered iced tea, I asked our server to bring me whatever red he thought would compliment my meal. Since I was driving, a bottle was out of the question, just a glass please. Out comes a glass of the Frog's Leap Zinfandel. Beautiful. Body, richness, fruit - hellacious. I dreamed of drinking the bottle. I also want to note that the stemware was crystal. I'd say it was Reidel but I didn't look. But it wasn't the usual Libby glassware you find at most restaurants. This stuff "pinged."

When I eat at steakhouses there's usually only one steak I order: the Rib Eye. Yes, it's fatty and marbled and probably the worst for you from a fatty health standpoint. But all that fat means one thing: flavor. So, to hell with the stupid filet mignon and it's lean and mealy texture. Give me the fat and more of it.

The Kansas City Rib Eye for $38 really wasn't a bad price for where we were. I think it is very reasonable. I thought about ordering two: one for now and the other for lunch the next day, but sanity prevailed. Besides, that second steak would've never made it home anyway. I'd end up on the side of I-95 huddled over it and tearing it apart.

"How would you like that done?" our server asked me. Honestly, that's just too much thinking for me. This is Charlie Palmer's and you're the steak kings. You've taken whatever monumental efforts to source, age and cut this beef for me to enjoy and you want me to nullify all that hard work by asking me to choose how it's prepared? Dammit, give it to me well-done in the deep fryer with plenty of A-1 steak sauce on the side!!!

Alright, that would be insane. Instead, I let the kitchen decide for me.

"Medium," was the answer, "pink on the inside."
"Perfect." I cooed.

The Affable Dave had ordered a salad and Surf and Turf for his meal.

I really dig this Kansas City Rib Eye thing. Big 'ole marble-y rib eye with the bone-in. Not sure how they cook their steaks but judging by the crustiness of the exterior I'm guessing they pan sear in butter then finish in the oven.

So how was it? In a word: wild. I've never had a rib eye like the one at Charlie Palmer's Steak. The marble and fat were just integral to the beef in such a way that the texture was unlike anything I had experienced before. Every few bites was a glide through smooth, fatty texture. Really, I can't describe it. It defies words - or at least my vocabulary. Succulent. Rich. Deep. Delicious. Amazing. Satisfying.

I ate the whole thing.

Along with our entrees, we had a couple of sides: french fries in a paper cone and carrots. The fries were decent but slightly soggy and the carrots were sauteed but didn't really have any oooomph in the flavor department. They were just "nice." Again, I hate to say it, but the fries are better at Les Halles.

That was the end. No dessert and certainly no coffee. We didn't even think about it. The meal was just too rich, too fattening and too filling to consider additional courses. The steak was excellent and why should I ruin a delicious experience with shitty coffee?