Friday, April 11, 2014

Portugal: Não, obrigada

Having spent a few days in Portugal and loving everything I tasted - the cheese, the fish, the bread ... nothing was fancy or complicated and everything exploded with flavor - Sweet Diablo was a real letdown. First of all, diablo is the Spanish word. The word for devil in Portuguese is diabo. One might argue that Sweet Diablo isn't officially a Portuguese cafe, but the website exlaims "bemvindo!" or "welcome!" and references "childhood experiences in Portugal." Still, I'm confident I wouldn't have noticed this if the food had been more than fine. We shared two sandwiches (a Porto and an Evora), which tasted oddly similar and were pretty small for the price. My biggest issue was that the sandwiches were warm and the arugula in the Evora was cooked, i.e. stringy and flavorless. We also had a soup of the day (beef and bean), which was wan beyond belief. My soup-fiend of a one year old wouldn't touch the stuff. And this kid eats unsalted rice cakes and sugar-free cheerios. To be fair, we didn't try any of the desserts and they do claim to make the world's best chocolate cake. Sadly, this is another example of a restaurant trying to serve food they think people want because they are eating it other places. But DC doesn't need another fancy sandwich shop (especially mediocre fancy sandwiches). A cafe serving the food that office workers in Lisbon enjoy might really be something.

Sweet Diablo 1200 19th Street, NW, DC

Poland: Don't Go Back to Rockville

That REM song doesn't actually have anything to do with anything, but it's a real song about Rockville, Maryland (maybe it's because I hail from the other side and am uninformed (I can think of two songs about Arlington), but there can't be too many songs about Maryland and maybe no other songs about Rockville?). Rockville happens to be the home of The Kielbasa Factory, the closest thing I could find to a Polish restaurant in the DC area. There are a couple places around that claim to be Polish, but were more generally Eastern European with leanings in other directions, such as Hungary or oddly, Scandinavia. So on a snowy Sunday we set out in pre-Christmas traffic for The Kielbasa Factory, which as you might expect, is a haven for Polish expats. They sell all kinds of Polish treats, from a wide variety of kielbasa (not surprisingly), dried mushrooms, jams, dairy products, even Polish toiletries and magazines. We escaped with a pound of the classic kielbasa, some Polish bacon, a pack of buckwheat groats, two cartons of potato and cheese pierogis, and four Paczki or doughnuts (when I asked the surly check-out woman what kind of doughnuts they were, meaning what type of filling, she said "they are Polish." In addition to being Polish they were also filled with plum jam.) The kielbasa and bacon made for a very tasty stuffed cabbage and the pierogis were deliciously doughy, but the Paczkis were a real disappointment. They look really, really good in the picture on the Kielbasa Factory website, but they were not fresh and the jam was not good quality. I'm not really a doughnut person, but I do have fond memories of rose jam-filled doughnuts in Warsaw. Alas..... I don't know that I'd drive all the way to Rockville just for The Kielbasa Factory, but if I found myself nearby, I might very well pop in for a package of pierogis or other Polish delight.

The Kielbasa Factory
1073 Rockville Pike, Rockville

The Philippines: Meh again

There are a multitude of boring mostly baby-related reasons that it took me so long to make it to the Philippine Oriental Market (aka POM). Also, they closed for a month or so over the winter...I will spare you the boring nap-related details and also encourage you to spare yourself a trip to POM. As the name suggests, this is a little market selling Filipino products, but there is also a hot bar of-sorts. As they do not have a website, finding their opening hours, etc. is a little tricky. Google did let me know that they close at 4:30 pm, but it was only after I showed up at 2:45 hoping to get something I could heat up for dinner, that I learned that "lunch is from 12-2!" The couple that runs the place is really sweet, though, and they gave me what was left for cheap or free (a strange sweet bun with flavorless yellow cheese in it and a random little chicken leg). I also came away with some glass noodles and adobo rice, both of which I really wanted to like, but they tasted like generic Asian food that you might find in a shopping mall food court. I had such high hopes for this place and it doesn't feel good being negative when the owners are so nice. It's possible that I missed something great by being 45 minutes too late, but the food I did get to try suggested otherwise.

Philippine Oriental Market
3610 Lee Hwy, Arlington