Ambar: The Balkan Experience

Courtesy of Ambar Goran Kosanovic

Ambar in Eastern Market (photo credit: Ambar/Goran Kosanovic)

Ambar is a gem of a restaurant in the Eastern Market area specializing in Balkan Cuisine. I knew Ambar as a great brunch spot, but their new Balkan experience menu really caught my attention.

Menu at Ambar

The menu at Ambar

For dinner, you can order a la carte, or you can order the Balkan Experience menu. There are two options under the Balkan experience menu: unlimited small plates and unlimited drinks for $49 per person, or unlimited small plates and Balkan specialties with unlimited drinks for $59 per person. Prices exclude tax and gratuity. These are great deals, and the food is fantastic.

The small plates are appropriate for sharing, and include mezze, spreads, pies, flatbreads, soup, salads, vegetables, meat and poultry, sausages, seafood, and grilled selections. The menu has options for everyone.

If you are going for the Balkan Experience, the more people at the table, the better. Standout dishes include: the stuffed cabbage, the mushroom crepes, the Balkan salad, and the mussels. I really had to cut down the number of photos I was including, every dish that came out was quickly declared my favorite. Also, beware of the bread: it is delicious. Don’t make the mistake I made and devour the bread before many of the other dishes arrive.

A selection of cocktails, beers, and house wines are included in the Balkan Experience menu. Ambar also carries over 52 varieties of rakias–fruit brandies, and  a selection of unique wines from Serbia, Macedonia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia as well as Italy and California.

Finally, for dessert, do not skip the forest gnocchi. It is a decadent dessert bowl with unexpected flavors and textures that complement each other.

The best part about  Ambar is the hospitality. The atmosphere is fun and energetic. Our servers were warm and friendly. This attention to hospitality makes an evening at Ambar one to remember. If you are looking for a different and fun dining experience and a place where you will be treated like family, look no further than Ambar. I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Below are more photos of this delicious feast.

Assortment of Rakias at Ambar

Rakias–fruit brandy. The alcohol content in rakia is 40%-95%.

Spreads with house made bread and charcuterie platter at Ambar

Spreads with the most delicious fried bread

Assorted Open Faced Sandwiches at Ambar

Assorted open faced sandwiches, there are 15 different selections and gluten free bread is available. These are available for lunch.

 

Balkan Salad at Ambar

Refreshing Balkan salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, and cheese

 

Drunken Mussels at Ambar

Drunken musses, with rakia of course!

Stuffed Sour Cabbage

Comfort food at it’s finest: stuffed sour cabbage. Savory and comforting.

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Mushroom crepes

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Croquettes at Ambar

Brussels sprouts with bacon and croquettes

Forest Gnocchi at Ambar

The forest gnocchi is a dessert bowl that is decadent and delicious, but it is not a heavy dessert. It is composed of chocolate mousse with bitter orange cake, ground chocolate, orange gelee, tarragon gnocchi, passionfruit espuma, and black tea sauce. I wish I was having it right now. 

Ambar Desserts

Assorted desserts

 

Disclosure: I was invited to a tasting at Ambar. I was not compensated for writing this post. All views are my own.

L’Hommage Bistro Francais: Classic French Cuisine and Delightful Ambiance

L’Hommage Bistro Francais near Mount Vernon Triangle opened in September of 2015 with over 6,000 square feet of space, and more than 250 seats with indoor and outdoor seating.

LHommage Bistro Interior

L’Hommage Bistro Francais

The space is gorgeous, with cheery bright walls, beautiful tile accents on the floor, and red upholstered furniture. The menu of French classics is right on point.

LHommage Bistro Menu

Menus at L’Hommage Bistro Francais

I visited the restaurant for date night with my boyfriend a while ago, and we had quiet early dinner on a weeknight. The food was fantastic and we had wonderful service. Some of my favorites were the steak tartare, the gougeres filled with Mornay sauce, the apple tart, and the creme brûlée.

Cheers at LHommage Bistro

Cheers! Bavik beer and French 12 cocktail.

See below for the dishes we tried.

Bread Basket at LHommage Bistro

Bread Basket

Steak Tartare LHommage Bistro

Steak Tartare

Mornay Filled Gougeres LHommage Bistro

Gougeres filled with Mornay sauce–divine!

Cassoulet LHommage Bistro

The cassoulet was fantastic and the portion was generous.

Fish Special Artic Char LHommage Bistro

Fish special: arctic char with vegetables.

Apple tart LHommage Bistro

A simple but delicious apple tart topped with ice cream. A perfect ending to a great meal.

Creme Brulee LHommage Bistro

Creme brûlée. The boyfriend declared this to be his favorite creme brûlée ever.

 

I would highly recommend L’Hommage Bistro Francais for a romantic dinner, happy hour, or a lively get together with friends. See the restaurant’s menus here.

Disclosure: I was invited to a tasting at the L’Hommage Bistro Francais. I was not compensated for writing this post. All views are my own.

What’s the Buzz at Fairmont DC?

There is something you might not know about the Fairmont in Washington DC. It is also a bee hotel! More specifically it houses honey beehives and and a hotel for pollinator bees. There is also a bee keeper that I like to refer to as the bee concierge. The bee’s are housed on the rooftop—no worries, if you are staying at the Fairmont you are not likely to see them at all.

Pollinator Bee Hotel

One of several pollinator bee hotels at Fairmont DC. This one was my favorite.

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to a tour of the rooftop and to learn more about this great initiative by the Fairmont. It was the first hotel in the US to have such a program, and they have encouraged many other hotels to join in. Fairmont has built a total of 21 bee hotels at their hotel properties so far. Bee numbers have declined due to environmental factors, and the bee initiative helps to grow these numbers. The initiative specially provides a welcoming habitat for wild pollinator bees. The added bonus is that the hotel uses some of the surplus honey to create unique dishes for the hotel’s menu.

The evening started with welcome drinks and hors de oeuvres at the hotel’s beautiful Loggia Lounge, which overlooks the garden courtyard. Hors de oeuvres included beet salad and phyllo dough cigars filled with feta cheese and honey.  I was introduced to a fantastic Sauvignon Blanc that is also bee friendly: Honig Sauvignon Blanc.

We were then invited up to the rooftop for the main attraction: the bees! We learned some interesting bee facts:

  • honey bees live for about two months and wild pollinator bees live for only one month
  • pollinator bees are the size of a fly and they sometimes live in little holes in the ground
  • an easy way to help the wild bee population is to set up bee hotels in your garden or balcony
Honey Bees Fairmont

Honeybee Hives

After visiting the rooftop bees, we were enjoyed a pollinator themed dinner in the courtyard at Juniper Restaurant. The courtyard is a lush oasis with fountains and twinkling lights. I can see myself coming back for a romantic dinner, or a fun al fresco lunch. It is also a beautiful place to host events.

We started with a delicious and refreshing Bee-tini with tequila, vodka, lemon, and honey. You can find the recipe for this cocktail here. While we enjoyed our drinks, we nibbled on the divine, house-made honey wheat walnut bread.  I probably had more than my fair share.

Our meal started with a sweet and savory  goat cheese and cauliflower panna cotta with cranberry gelée, and wild flower honey. The main dish was wild caught salmon with pollen dust, lemon marmalade, and a citrus-fennel salad. Dessert was a delicate creme brûlée, with peach sorbet, and a honey tea shortbread cookie.  As the dishes came out, we talked about the bees, the honey, and we enjoyed a cool and breezy evening. These honey centered dishes are available until the end of June. Scroll down for photos of all the dishes.

Don’t miss out on the buzz, stop by the Fairmont DC to enjoy the gorgeous atmosphere, delicious food, and great hospitality.

Honey Wheat Walnut Bread

House-Made Honey Wheat Walnut Bread with Raisins

Goat Cheese and Cauliflower Panna Cotta

Sweet and Savory Goat Cheese and Cauliflower Panna Cotta with Cranberry Gelée, and Wild Flower Honey

Wild Caught Salmon with Pollen Dust Lemon Marmalade and Citrus Fennel Salad

Wild-Caught Salmon with Pollen Dust, Lemon Marmalade, and Citrus-Fennel Salad

Creme Brulee

Creme Brûlée with Peach Sorbet, and Honey Tea Shortbread Cookie

We parted with fun delicious and practical gifts: some of the classic honey wheat walnut bread, and a cute wild pollinator bee hotel. You can easily make your own pollinator bee hotel by drilling holes into a wooden block. You can also buy a pollinator bee hotel online.

And here are a few tips from the Pollinator Partnership:

  • Place the hotel at least four feet off the ground but no higher than 10 stories
  • Position the bee hotel facing south east so it can enjoy the morning sun
  • Check back often, you may have occupants before you know it!
Pollinator Bee Hotel and Honey Wheat Walnut Bread

Pollinator Bee Hotel and  Honey Wheat Walnut Bread

Disclosure: I was invited to a tasting at the hotel. I was not compensated for writing this post. All views are my own.

Malibu

Earlier this year, I took an amazing trip to California with my boyfriend to celebrate my birthday. We focused on the LA area and Malibu. As always, it took me a while to look through my photos and get them sorted out.

I’m going to start with my favorite part of the trip: Malibu!

I stayed at the Malibu Beach Inn which isa gorgeous little luxury hotel, with the most fabulous view of the Pacific Ocean. The rooms are pretty much on the water. My favorite thing to do was to open the sliding doors, sit on the balcony with a good book, and listen to the seagulls and the waves. The sound of the waves was incredibly soothing.

Reading on the Balcony


The service at the hotel is impeccable. The restaurant is exquisite. And it doesn’t hurt that the hotel provides guests with my favorite Molton Brown toiletries. It’s a bit of a splurge, but I highly recommend it.

See my list of favorites below, for  more on what to do, where to eat and drink, and where to shop.

Stay:

At the Malibu Beach Inn

A Room With A View


Do:

  • Visit one of the many Malibu wine tasting rooms and find a favorite wine to take home with you.

Drink:

Sidecars at the Carbon Beach Club Terrace

A Light Appetizer to go With Your Cocktails: Ahi Tuna Tartar With Indian Red Curry, Avocado, Cucumber, and Served With Poppadum at Carbon Beach Club


Late-Night Drinks at the Carbon Beach Club


Eat:

  • The best breakfast you’ll ever have at Malibu Farm Cafe. It’s located at the end of the Malibu Pier.
  • The freshest, prepared to order seafood at Malibu Seafood. You’ll order at the counter, and then take your food upstairs to the sitting area where you enjoy your meal with a magnificent view. They don’t serve alcohol, but feel free to bring your own wine.
  • A dinner to celebrate a special occasion at Malibu Farm Restaurant. Don’t forget to make a reservation. It’s located at the front of the Malibu Pier.

Breakfast at Malibu Farm Cafe

Fried Seafood from Malibu Seafood


Pre-dinner Cocktails at Malibu Farm


Shop:

Whaley’s: Fresh Seafood in Navy Yard

Whaley’s opened recently in Navy Yard, and I headed there with my boyfriend to grab some oysters and a cocktail. I love the Navy Yards area for the open space, fountains, and the variety of restaurants available.

 

Whaley’s

 

Whaley’s is adorned with gorgeous large-scale murals in shades of blue. The high ceiling, mirror lined back wall, and glass front entrance give the space a sense of airiness and almost tricks you into thinking that you are outdoors next to a fishing pier. The food is focused on seafood, but they also have pork chop and hanger steak entrees for non-seafood lovers.

I wanted to try more than one cocktail, but the #1 was so good that I just had to order to order a second one. Its ingredients include sparkling rosé, St. Germaine, rum, and grapefruit. It is light, and refreshing, with just a hint of sweetness. It paired well with the oyster plate, the poached cold shrimp, and the razor clams that we had for appetizers.

 

Cocktail #1

 

Oysters and Shrimp

snapseed-23

Razor Clams

 

After two cocktails, we had worked up an appetite and we were ready for a substantial meal. We ordered the pork chop sprinkled with a crunchy corn bread crumble, and the Carolina Gold Rice topped with crispy Parmesan crisps to share between the two of us. The pork chop is a big serving of thick cut Ecofriendly Foods pork, and was perfectly cooked to order. I was surprised at the large portion size because I had expected that Whaley’s would be a small portions restaurant. The Carolina Gold Rice was creamy, full of Spring vegetables, and dotted with pesto. I could eat bowls and bowls of it. I’m glad we didn’t order a second entrée because the portions were big enough to leave us full and satisfied.

Pork Chop

 


Carolina Gold Rice


Overall, it was a great meal with wonderful service.

Whaley’s is located at:
301 Water St SE #115
Washington, DC 20003