Friday, January 27, 2012

#97 New Restaurants: Annie's Bistro Francais

Bethesda is full of restaurants, but so many of them are cookie-cutter crap. I say that in the nicest way possible, because it's not their fault. Bethesda's full of new money and, unlike the old money in DC, they feel that they have to show off their money and their importance. This attitude usually equates to self-entitlement and a refusal to eat anywhere that doesn't cater to the generalized tastes of the neighborhood. The most successful restaurants tend to be those with large menus that can accommodate all tastes and walks of life, and their expensive because how much one pays is more important than the quality of one's meal.

This made it very hard for me to decide where Chef Hubby and I should go on a date. I wanted to try somewhere we'd never been, because of my Day Zero Project, but nothing looked appealing to me. Tooling around my eye happened upon Annie's... we'd walked by a couple of times and it had always look empty, which either meant it was bad or that it wasn't cookie cutter. I decided to risk it.

Annie's Bistro Francais is a breath of fresh air compared to the usual same old new restaurants around me. I got to try a restaurant that was new for me as well as being new to the neighborhood, and I hope it manages to stick around for awhile because it was fantastic. The decor is simple and fairly European, although I've never been to France it definitely reminded me of some of our Honeymoon cruise. I loved the little centerpieces on the tables:
Annie's menu is small, in part because it's a Farm to Table Restaurant. If you ask the server who is also the bartender who is also the manager and husband of the cook, he can tell you exactly where everything came from and on what day they got it.  Everything they buy is local, from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, etc. Except the wines, of course, which are French.

At first the somewhat limited menu selection worried me. I'm such a picky eater and I couldn't find any of my usual fallbacks on the menu - there were no chicken breasts or beef at all! Reluctantly I found myself choosing between dark meat chicken and pork. I went with the pork, even though I usually don't like pork. It's either dry or slimy and it gives you tapeworm. Also, all of the entrees come with the same sides, you just choose the meat. The sides, the day we were there, was spinach and potatoes. I hate spinach. So far I was starting to think that maybe this risk wasn't paying off, but that's ok, there were some options on the appetizers menu that looked promising. We'd get some appetizers, I'd eat about half my pork, fill up on potatoes, and take the rest of the pork and the spinach home for Chef Hubby to eat for lunch the next day. He was excited because he got to order the duck, which he loves. He also likes spinach. Weirdo.

For appetizers we ordered Tomato Soup and a Cheese Plate that came with goat cheese and brie - I'm pretty sure I recognized them as being from the local farmer's market that has a cheese stall where I like to buy cheddar.

The soup was my first clue that this definitely wasn't going to be a cookie-cutter Bethesda restaurant. It was shockingly fresh tasting. Imagine biting into a fresh tomato covered in basil. Now imagine that in soup form. Normally soups in Bethesda taste like they have plenty of butter and cream, with tomato flavor. This tasted like a tomato. And basil. I'd never had anything like it before in my life.

Then, because I'm a genius, I hit on a brilliant combination of spreading some brie on my freshly baked french bread and dipping it in the soup. Um... delicious.
The bread was fantastic. Cripsy on the outside, soft on the inside and very warm. Exactly the way french bread should be!

By the time our entrees came I was starting to feel hopeful. Maybe the pork wouldn't be bad. Maybe I'd even try the spinach. The menu said it had bacon in it. Maybe I'd actually enjoy my dinner, even though it was well outside of my comfort zone. Chef Hubby had no qualms about his dinner and was very annoyed with me that I made him wait so I could take a picture before he dug in.  I got the Look of DOOM.
Now for my dinner... it came out looking delicious!
"Sure, Muffin," you're saying, "it looks good. But you've spent this blog entry talking about how you hate spinach. And how pork is gross. You really freaked me out with that tapeworm thing too. Did you actually eat it?"

The most incredibly unexpected thing happened.

If my Mom read this blog, I'm pretty sure her head would explode, seeing this. Hey Dad, if Mom's around make her read this entry. That's right... all that's left on my plate are a few potatoes. POTATOES. How did this happen?!

Well, for one, the chef really knows how to cook pork. It was a little salty with the sauce, but very tasty and hey... I love salt so I'm not complaining. The actual pork wasn't slimy, it wasn't over done, it was just right. Yeah, I'm the Goldilocks of pork. The spinach? Well yeah, it still tasted like spinach, but all the bitterness and the metallic taste that is what I hate about spinach was missing. In its place was delicious, flavorful bacon. How could I not eat all of it?!

When we explained to the miracle of my empty plate to the server/manager, he told us he'd tell his wife who is the Executive chef. Which is how we found out that it's a family owned and run business... add that into the farm to table aspect and this is about as small business and local as you can get. I hope Annie's sticks around for a long time.

They don't make their own desserts, but they do get them locally at one of my favorite pastry shops, Tout de Sweet - the owner and chef is a good friend of Annie's chef!

Chances are next time we'll just swing by Tout de Sweet and get the dessert straight from there because it's a little bit cheaper straight from the source, but we'll definitely be returning to Annie's. In fact, we're going there for a wine tasting in a couple weeks to celebrate KatieSchmatie's birthday and I can't wait!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Your dinner looked amazing! OMG those desserts look to die for!!