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Palena


tjaehnigen
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Derek, is well, Derek. Certainly my favorite host/bartender in the area.

You said it. I met Derek last night as my buddy and I sat at the bar to enjoy the sublime hot dog and hamburger which we cut in half and traded with each other. He overheard me mention this thread on eGullet to my friend and promptly asked me for "both" of my names. We were treated like kings despite our overly inebriated state (it was our last stop on a bit of a Connecticut Ave Crawl). He sold us on drinking our dessert-- a snifter of rum called Pyrat Hoti which tasted like Bananas Foster in a glass.

A great end to a fun night. Thanks Derek! :biggrin:

I still need to get back there for the chicken...

peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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Derek, is well, Derek.  Certainly my favorite host/bartender in the area.

A great end to a fun night. Thanks Derek! :biggrin:

I still need to get back there for the chicken...

The chicken rocks! I am going to be there on Friday night with a friend and will have to say hi to Derek.

Maybe we need to do an eG event there...

Wearing jeans to the best restaurants in town.
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My cousin and I had a very pleasant evening in the care of Derek and his colleagues this past Saturday night.

In fact we did first courses at Indique and followed it up with main course and dessert at Palena. One disappointment, we did not try the famous chicken since it takes 45 minutes to pain [sic] fry and then roast. Had we known I would have ordered it, crossed back to Indique and then returned when it was ready. A word to those who wish to avoid disappointment in the future.

By the way, of the fried veggies, I thought the lemon the most spectacular. The next best item was the onion. The puffed and fried potatoes were good, but not worth a detour.

We had the squab and foie gras in place of the chicken, such hard luck. We enjoyed that dish very much. I particularly admired the way the squab leg was prepared differently from the breast so that the distinctive taste of each part was respected. The foie was excellent.

The lime tart to end the evening looked like we were eating breakfast, a deeply yellow custard flowed out of its pastry shell with each cut and thrust, rather like a sunny side egg on toast. The shell was not so soft as to grow soggy under its filling nor too hard to be yielding to a fork. The custard incorporated bits of lime so that it had a surprising and rewarding consistency.

Derrick introduced us to a newly arrived St. Emilion that was quite agreeable.

Saturday night in mid-summer is a great time to try the cafe since it is not packed. The banquettes are more dramatic and comfortable then the tables and chairs in the dining room itself.

Edited by VivreManger (log)
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VM, Glad you had fun. I thought the 45 min chicken had been mentioned on the thread before--sorry it wasn't. But I've found that 45 min FLIES by when in the company of Derrick and his lovely cocktails.

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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Yet more mad props to Derek:

My GF wanted to buy me a bottle of the Pyrat XO rum that I liked from my last visit, so she called Palena and spoke with someone who told her to call back when Derek was in to find out where to get it. Meanwhile, my GF called around and found that the liquor store in Cleveland Park had it, so she asked them to hold a bottle for her to pick up later. Meanwhile (again) Derek is told that someone called inquiring about the rum, so he goes over to the Cleveland Park liquor store to make sure they have it. Later, my GF shows up at the liquor store for the rum and they tell her Derek was just there inquiring about it on our behalf.

I will be popping that bottle open tonight!

Thanks Derek!!! :biggrin:

Arrrrgh,

The Pyrat

peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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This is my first post in this forum, and I'm not likely to say too much, but I wanted to say that Frank--our commander-in-chef at Palena--was the one who fielded the call and mentioned it to me. Mostly, its his thoughtful gesture. But I do appreciate the response and welcome you back... I think we have half-a-bottle left and we'll get more ;) Plus we have plenty of Captain Morgan's, uuhhmm, Mark.

Derek

Edited by eatdrinkummm (log)

“Let us candidly admit that there are shameful blemishes on the American past, of which the worst by far is rum. Nevertheless, we have improved man's lot and enriched his civilization with rye, bourbon and the Martini cocktail. In all history has any other nation done so much?”

Bernard De Voto (1897-1955) American writer and critic.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Last night first trip to Palena, I must say something of GREAT import!!!

The BEST thing about our first visit is finding how easy this little gem is to get to on THE METRO!!!!!!! That meant that I could imbibe without fear, and thanks to Derek we sure did. I'm an OLD drinker, so the sidecar wasn't for me, BUT it is a wonderful rendition, good presentation and tasty. Then there was this OUTSTANDING expresso based cocktail, yum. The wine selection is well selected, and to my eye not "Rape and pillage" pricing.

The half roasted organic chicken at $9. (we ate in the bar) was moist, flavorful and tender.I only wish there had been another mouthful of the sauted greens.

I will echo preceeding comments on the Gnocci, almost a light as my matzoh balls, which (unless held down) float and bump the ceiling.

Terrific "joint" which is now on our repeat list.

Ted Task

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[Mrs. Busboy here]

I would like to take the esteemed Mr. Task to task on one issue... the proximity to the Metro is not the best thing about Palena.

The best thing about Palena on last Tuesday night, beyond the extraordinary company was the outstanding food and bevarage service which was extended to us by all of the staff at what I feel is the most inviting, comfortable and elegant spots in the District.

Corn Blini, Fried Stuff,Gnocci (I'm not sure about the floating ball thing Mr. Task mentioned before) :unsure::raz: but yes, they were tasty, Roasted Chicken, Swordfish (my favorite of all, suprising to me because usually it is not), hot dog, (yummy yummy kraut - kudos and I would like to chat with the chef about his recipe for the dog because - well I just would and I make my own too) and numerous well fashioned cocktails. Oh and the desserts!? The lime curd thing is gooood and the napolean is too. However at that point I was probably a little impaired by the espresso cocktail --- oh you mean I had two? Yes they were both tasty (yes both).

Derek, will you marry me?

Thanks to all the professionals at this fine establishment who made a great 75th birthday celebration for my father possible :wub:

Hey Mal

I'm still not convimced about brining!!

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Mrs. B, did you have our lemon drink? I have been dreaming of them for a week now.

Does anyone know how late they are open?

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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[Mrs. Busboy here]

Hey Mal

I'm still not convimced about brining!!

Oh, we shall see, my friend. Pullets at Twenty Paces will make a believer out of all of us...

Which reminds me: is the Palena bird brined?

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Had 3 courses at the bar last night with wines picked by Derek. I can't recommend the roast leg of suckling pig enough. Oh my. It puts a smile on your face. And the Roman bread soup was downright luxurious.

Had a sidecar too!

peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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almost a light as my matzoh balls, which (unless held down) float and bump the ceiling.

That's SO funny...mine are TOO! :biggrin:

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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I believe that the roast chicken is not merely brined--it is injected. I loved how the tarragon flavor wnt all the way to the bone. Thanks to Frank Ruta's inspiration, I bought a marinade injector and made an herb brine with lavender. Roasted the chicken in the Weber Kettle. Unbelievable. I love Palena--it's gotta be my favorite restaurant in DC!

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Ummmm, all I can say is you never know who you are going to run into at Palena's bar!

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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Ummmm, all I can say is you never know who you are going to run into at Palena's bar!

a statement like THAT with no follow up...!?!

this merits a bemused gallic expression and a "quoi?"

i want to guess: was it your pal? you know, ena?

oh come on guys and gals. this is humor. i can hear you laughing...

there is no love sincerer than the love of food

- george bernard shaw

i feel like love is in the kitchen with a culinary eye, think she's making something special and i'm smart enough to try

- interpol

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Ummmm, all I can say is you never know who you are going to run into at Palena's bar!

a statement like THAT with no follow up...!?!

this merits a bemused gallic expression and a "quoi?"

i want to guess: was it your pal? you know, ena?

oh come on guys and gals. this is humor. i can hear you laughing...

OK, Dude, here's the follow-up:

The WHOLE FREAKIN' BAR WAS EGULLETERS TONIGHT! It was unplanned, unrehearsed and totally fun. Derek was sweating bullets, though. :laugh:

That burger is awesome.

Mark

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Ummmm, all I can say is you never know who you are going to run into at Palena's bar!

a statement like THAT with no follow up...!?!

this merits a bemused gallic expression and a "quoi?"

i want to guess: was it your pal? you know, ena?

oh come on guys and gals. this is humor. i can hear you laughing...

OK, Dude, here's the follow-up:

The WHOLE FREAKIN' BAR WAS EGULLETERS TONIGHT! It was unplanned, unrehearsed and totally fun. Derek was sweating bullets, though. :laugh:

That burger is awesome.

Seems like you can't go to the Palena bar these days without running into eGulleters. It was quite a convergence last night, though. Great to meet everyone!

Chris Sadler

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In my admittedly slow effort to move from lurker to participant on egullet, I thought I’d share our experience at Palena café on Saturday.

We arrived early in the evening, when it was fairly slow, so we were able to sit in a booth. My husband started with the sweet corn raviolini, which was served with some of the sweetest and most succulent crab we have ever tasted. It was Peekytoe crab from Maine, which we had a couple of times on a trip to Portland last year – we remembered we loved the crab then, but this dish at Palena was even better. The combination of the raviolini, crab and chives, served in a light butter sauce was irresistible. Lucky for me, my husband is always willing to share :wub:

That’s not to say I didn’t love my starter, which was called tomato fantasy. It included three different takes on, well, tomatoes, which I can’t resist this time of year. The dish included: several thick slices of heirloom tomatoes; a tomato jelly topped with a sort of mousse of parmesan cheese, I believe, and a small, narrow foccacia-like slice covered with cherry tomatoes, fresh herbs and olive oil and a slice of either fresh sardine or anchovy (I’m not sure which –whichever it was, it was delicious) Again, the combination of flavors was excellent.

We asked the waitress for suggestions for wines by the glass with our starters – my husband had a chardonnay and I had a sauvignon blanc, both of which were very good matches. (I can’t remember the details about the wine) Our waitress was wonderful –I don’t know her name, but she did an excellent job.

For my main course, I ordered the cheeseburger because – well, because it’s the Palena cheeseburger. Need I say more? We have eaten at the café probably about ten times in the past year, and I nearly always waver between the cheeseburger and the heavenly gnocchi. (I did order the roasted chicken once and it definitely lived up to its billing, but I keep returning to my favorites.) With my cheeseburger, I had a glass of the zinfandel, about which I also cannot recall the details. (By now, the sommeliers and wine buyers reading this are probably pounding their heads against their computer screens, thinking ‘can we get no respect?’ From now on, I’ll take notes on all the wines :smile: )

My husband had the skate, which was served with cockles and sorrel in a light tomato broth. Both the fish and shellfish were cooked to perfection, and, again, the flavors worked so well together. And the pinot blanc suggested by our waitress was a good complement to the dish.

After dinner, we moved to the bar and introduced ourselves to Derek, who was as friendly and gracious as everyone has described him. He is, indeed, the man.

We ordered the cheese plate, which included a mild goat cheese with vegetable ash from Pennsylvania, an Italian goat cheese called brunet, a piave vecchio, the only hard cheese in the mix, a gorgonzola and a delicious soft creamy cheese, the name of which escapes me – all of these accompanied by several slices of bread baked with fruit and nuts. With the plate, Derek suggested (I hope I have this right) a white burgundy from Macon-Villages, which was a great match. To finish the evening, we had a glass of dessert wine – Loupiac – which Derek explained is a region in Bordeaux across the river from Sauternes. (See, there is hope for me).

Thanks to Derek, Chef Frank Ruta and the rest of the staff at Palena for a wonderful evening. One of these days, soon, we’ll return to try one of Derek’s famous cocktails.

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