Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Washington Place: The restaurant that got me to eat, and like, something I thought was hopeless

It's actually Washington Place Bistro and Inn, but I hate when places have Bistro in their names, it makes me think of Pier 1 and thin yellow tinted vases. So I'm going to leave the bistro out, because just saying "Washington Place" is so much better sounding. Though the inn part is important. Washington Place Inn? I really hate the word bistro.

Michelle over at Cleveland Foodie invited me for a preview dinner, and honestly, at first I was so confused. I IMed Sarah, and I was all like "she knows I don't really talk about food right?" and then "also, she knows the way I usually write about stuff right?" But then Sarah told me she would go, and my other friend agreed, and thus we had plans.

So this new place is the old Baricelli Inn. My sole experience with this building in its former incarnation had been when I dropped Allison off for work there in the afternoons and we smoked weed in the parking lot, years and years ago, when all the Watermark servers went to work there, or Lola's. It's a beautiful building of course, a perfect restaurant spot. Plus, they have a parking lot, which is totally a selling point to me, me who specifically doesn't spend a lot of time in Little Italy because she's terrified of not finding a parking spot anywhere ever, also maybe a little scared of hitting a valet accidentally with her car. I mean, they're always just right there in the street! Speaking of, they had valet service for us, which is something I never use in my own car. So I apologized profusely to the guy who took my keys, and I hope he enjoyed the Girl Talk I left on.

The owner Scott came right up to me and said hi, like as soon as I was in the door. I must have looked lost. Really I was looking for Sarah, but also wondering what I was supposed to do, and if Andrew was there yet, and okay, I must have looked excruciatingly lost. But he was so sweet and disarming. I mean really, this guy sold me on himself last night, from the first moment of meeting him through to the last hour touring through the inn rooms. It's true you know, you like a place more when you've met the owner or the chef, and you feel some sort of personal face to the whole place. It totally happened with Crop and Steve, and at Bac in Tremont. Luckily for Michelle, this particular guy is an incredibly easy sell, he's so nice. Also, while I'm thinking of it, let me just also mention how super nice the staff was. I mean, no, I know, you expect them to be of course. It's their job. But they did a very good job of it.

So I found Sarah and Andrew and ran into Kelly and Jose who I hadn't seen in so long, which was nice. It was totally a blogger meetup, which are two words that I absolutely despise together, but it's a thing and it's a thing I enjoy, meeting people who I only know through lots and lots of words. Or in some cases, only 140 characters over and over and over again. God, we live such strange lives, don't we? Andrew told us some stories about Barcelona, and gave me a shiny new euro cent. Sarah had him enchanted by the time we found a table, because she's Sarah, and she does that effortlessly. She had him hooked by the time she finished telling him about the website she's going to start called "What The Hell Happened to Your Camry?" The whole atmosphere was like there were some adults, and then there were a bunch of high school kids being allowed to run through the new place, and it was lovely. If the place had felt too stiffed, then I would have felt ashamed of my thoughts immediately, and tried extra hard to not make a fool of myself. But it didn't feel that way at all. It just felt like a new place that really really wanted me to like it, and sincerely.

I think that's probably the best word for the whole experience. The owner was sincere. The staff was sincere. The menu was sincere. They were just all there, new uniforms, molding not even quite done in certain corners, all the kitchen stuff still shiny and new, saying "please like us". It's impossible not to fall for something like that. Especially when the packaging is cute and solid and classic.

Okay, so on to the important thing, food.

I didn't eat any of the appetizer things being passed around at the bar before we sat down, because I'm only a mobile grazer when I'm drunk and have ceased caring whether I get crumbs on my dress front. Andrew came back from getting a drink very impressed with the bartender, who had given him some trivia about Howard Hughes and the invention of the twist. He asked the hostesses which was the best dining room to sit in, and when we got down the hallway Sarah had already found it.

First was a goat cheese beet salad, which I'm just a sucker for anything with beets, so I loved it. At this very moment my mom is thinking of all those hours spent pleading with little me to eat beets. It's okay Mom, Polish blood always tells in the end. It was a great little salad, beautiful little cubes and candies and stuff.

The star of the evening, at least according to everyone I talked to, was the oxtail pierogi. It was a very good pierogi. I did find it a little salty though, and then I thought the same about the pot roast later. They were still very good, but I feel like people overuse salt because they feel like the beef won't have a strong enough taste to stand on it's own, and in both cases, it did. My own personal favorites were the beet salad, the cauliflower gratin which came with the salmon, and the chocolate brownie with chocolate ice cream, which is where the saltiness found it's perfect place. I hate when people make chocolate too sweet, and this was just right. It was kind of a Goldilocks moment in fact. Jeni's ice cream does that to people. Attention boyfriends of Cleveland, every girl you know? We are all just fangirls of Jeni's. All of us. Take note.

But! Let's talk about the pinnacle of the night, which is when Bridget ate her first scallop. As in, the entire scallop, the whole thing, not just some tiny little bite where she makes a face and then politely passes. See, I don't eat fish. I don't eat lobster, or mussels, or oysters. There is some white fish I will eat, the heavily fried and battered kind, and I like crab but only in small doses. But I knew there would be seafood on the tasting menu, since the dinner menu on the website was awfully fish heavy, so I promised myself that I was totally going to eat whatever was put in front of me like a good girl, just like when you slept over at your childhood friend's house and their parents made something awful with way too many onions in it, but you still ate it, because that's what good little girls do. I was resigned.

Well... it was really good. I finally got the whole "scallop" thing. This one had some apple cider demi and was perfectly seared so it crunched a little and then sweet but not, like, raw when you bit down on it. It was like...melon. Or peeled green grape. I spent so much time thinking about the scallop that I barely got any of the risotto before it was next course, which is saying something, cause I'm a sucker for risotto. Andrew videotaped me taking my first bite, so there you go, there's proof somewhere out in the world. I'm sure I'm making some weird face, like a cat trying to decide to eat the styrofoam packaging or not. So I eat scallops now. I will not however stop making Top Chef scallop jokes, or raising awareness of the worldwide scallop massacres taking place as we speak, the guilt for which I lay at Padma's feet.

So in the end, and despite having been courted expertly and gallantly, I would recommend trying this place out. Go to the dining room first door on the left. Maybe go on a Wednesday, which is when they have this great 2 for 40 deal which includes the bottle of wine, obviously the important part. I will go back specifically to try the mac and cheese, which wasn't on the tasting menu, and which really sort of sang my name in a creepy buttery mournful way when I was reading the website.

Later we had some stiff drinks at Mia Bella down the street, where I may or may not have been too inquisitive about the cute bartender, and when Sarah and I were walking back to our cars, a Camry passed us in the street with a giant dent in one of it's rear doors, which had me about to fall down with happiness, cause I love when things work out in round about ways like that. If that was you, and you were wondering, yes we were totally laughing at your car.


  1. we should've joined tables, kind of like joining forces, jedi style.

    loved the scallops first then the beets. so damn good.

  2. wow! i'm always totally impressed when someone goes outside of their food comfort zone. if i ate a scallop my whole family would probably drop dead.

  3. You remember giving the bartender this URL, right?

    That was really something special when that Camry rolled down the street. I mean it almost hit us!

  4. All - it was very nice meeting you too :) Why is every girl in this town a sucker for beets? Is it like a mass vitamin deficiency or something? I mean, me too. But it's rampant.

    Jess - You have to try everything once when you're a child, once when you're a teenage, and once after thirty. Cause, hormones change and stuff, and it really does affect your tastes.

    MWG - I am an adult, I'm totally fine with some guy knowing I thought he was cute. Also, now all Camry's will be out to get you, watch.

  5. 1. Erin Love Beets.

    2. The Goat proposed to me at the Baricelli Inn.

    3. Too much to type about scallops, but, um, HELL YEAH.

    4. Hi, Bridget.

  6. 1. Beets are in our bloodstreams.

    2. Aw.

    3. okay.

    4. Hi Erin!


  8. But now it's all out in the open, and they don't have to hide their intent. It's like this just got upgraded from guerrilla attacks to full out civil war.

    Man, I really want mac and cheese and a brownie right now. Instead, blueberry bagel, bacon, and robitussin.

  9. Sarah and I are weird about valet as well, but are trying to get used to it.

    Every post I've read mentioned how nice Scott and the staff are. I'm not sure how Scott managed to give every person in a large crowd the royal treatment, but somehow he did. Sarah and I have been treated like crap once or twice before in nicer restaurants, so we felt really grateful. He was so genuine, too.

    Most seafood has also struck me in the past as weird, slimy, and bug-like, but I've gotten a taste for it. As Jonathan Swift said, "It was a brave man that first ate an oyster." Your scallop may have been gateway seafood :-)

    Anyway, hopefully we'll meet each other the next time something like this happens.


  10. Well, now that I know what you look like, it will happen.

    That sounded vaguely more threatening than I meant it to.

  11. I can't believe you ate a scallop. They scare me. Clam snot. Seriously ew.

  12. See, and to people who eat seafood, this is no big deal. But you understand why I'm all like "go me!"

  13. wow! i'm always totally impressed when someone goes outside of their food comfort zone. if i ate a scallop my whole family would probably drop dead.


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