Food news travels fast here in Washington – between the various professional reviewers and all of our fellow bloggers, there are very few items that pass unremarked. Sometimes it seems like we’re all writing as fast as we can with one eye on Twitter, one eye on our inboxes and one eye on every promising storefront we pass. The arrival of Poste Roasts, the newest offering from Chef Robert Weland of Poste Brasserie in the Hotel Monaco, has been no exception.
As luck would have it, we were writing about some of our favorite group- and family-style dining options around the city on the day that the Poste Roasts concept was announced. We were already writing about the Thursday evening Market to Market dinners, so this new offering made a welcome addition.
When we read the press release, Elizabeth was the first to see the potential. “Any interest in getting a group together to do this for your birthday?” she asked me, thinking a month ahead. I wasn’t sure right away, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that this would be a great way to celebrate with a group of our friends…weather permitting. And the more I thought about it, the more excited I got. After all, we already knew we were fans of Poste; why not see what Chef Weland could do with spit-roasting?
As it turns out, he can do plenty. When you call to make your reservation (at least a week in advance, please), you select an entree for your party. The locally-sourced options include standards like suckling pig, beef brisket, and baby lamb, as well as a grilled wild Alaskan salmon, but that’s just the beginning. You can also go further afield and try Peking duck, squab (pigeon), poussin (young chicken) or capretto (baby goat). Each comes with its own paired sides and is served family-style for the whole table to share.
Us? We went with the goat. Check it out after the jump.
When our entire party (us, my father, and eight of our friends) was assembled, the host led us out into the Poste Garden, past a capacity crowd enjoying the beautiful early July weather with cocktails and truffled frites on the patio. The chef’s table is a truly impressive slab of Virginia stone set amid the garden where Chef Weland grows many of the herbs, lettuces and tomatoes he uses throughout their growing season. We took our places around the table – on chairs and benches – and sat down.
Perhaps because the Roasts are such a new offering, things got off to a bit of a slow start. Eventually our server came around to ask if we wanted any appetizers, but we had to request a menu before we could make any choices. We were powerless to resist the amazing gazpacho served with dijon ice cream, a long-time summer favorite, while others in the group opted for those truffled frites and other starters. In retrospect, as delicious as everything was, it was decidedly unnecessary; the portions of the Roast are generous enough that you will leave satisfied.
A short while later, with the sun setting and the candles lit, our main event arrived. A giant carving tray was muscled to the table, where it was placed with reverence as we craned our necks to see. No carcass stared back at us, thankfully, as most of the meat had been pulled from the bones and piled artfully on the tray and in a few serving dishes. A harvest’s worth of roasted vegetables accompanied the meat, and the kitchen was kind enough to leave one leg intact should anyone have wanted to attempt a Henry VIII impression.
How was the goat? In a word, unbelievable. Goat is not what you’d call a tender meat – even capretto can be tough and stringy if prepared the wrong way. Thankfully, Poste soaks the meat overnight before roasting over extremely low heat – that classic prescription for breaking down tough cuts and getting them to give up their collagen in favor of meltingly tender meat. Curious to know more about where the meat came from, I asked the server about this “locally-sourced” goat. I broke into a huge grin when we were told that this goat came from none other than Brad Parker’s farm (you may remember Mr. Parker as the cheesemaker nice enough to sell me some of his chevre from the back of a shady van last year).
As good as it was, the star of the meal shared the stage with an equally compelling co-star. Anson Mills, the South Carolina corn growers whose praises are being sung by every famous chef from Thomas Keller to Jean-Georges Vongerichten, provide the grits that Weland turns into a decadent creamy polenta with a thick cheese topping. If they hadn’t been so heart-stoppingly rich, we would have had a real fight on our hands over the rights to lick the serving bowls clean.
To go with our goat, we opted for the recommended local wine pairing – a cabernet franc from Fabbioli Cellars in Leesburg.
Finally, it was time for dessert. But Elizabeth knows me well enough to know that I’ll take a good cheese plate over dessert any day, so she surprised me with a birthday cheeseboard featuring five cheeses and a candle. It was a perfect end to a wonderful meal made all the better by the company who gathered to share it with us. And what would a dinner at Poste be without complimentary candies for dessert (including white chocolate-dipped gooseberries) and a souvenir (seed packets and tomato plants culled from the chef’s garden).
If you want to do a Poste Roast of your own, it’s pretty simple to do: call Poste a week before you want to visit, knowing that they offer the Roasts every day but Thursdays (when Chef Weland does his Market to Market dinner). Make a reservation for 6 to 12 guests and choose your meat. The basic meal is $27 per person, regardless of which entree you choose, not inclusive of beverages, tax, tip or any additional purchases you might make. If you’re willing to forego the appetizers and limit your wine intake, you can even keep your evening pretty reasonable.
It’s a great way to try something new with your friends in a really cool environment – and a hell of a birthday dinner!