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Posted at 10:38 AM ET, 12/29/2006

Erin's Tasty Morsels in 2006

By Erin

As we look back on our various beats in 2006, I'm embarrassed by how much I've had to eat this year. I should probably trademark the phrase "I'll never eat again," but most food comas have been pleasant ones. It's been a busy busy year with much promise and a few over-hyped disappointments. Trends in restaurant openings included a rush to conquer Chevy Chase/Friendship Heights (Indique Heights, Lia's and Famoso are just the tip of that area's iceberg), favorite chefs in new capacities (Restaurant Eve and Buck's Fishing and Camping both have ultra-casual sister establishments now) and a strong focus on simple, seasonal ingredients. Here are some of my favorite new haunts, but I hope you'll dig in and offer some of your own.

The opening of Bebo, Roberto Donna's new trattoria, filled a huge local void. Not many places around here have al dente pastas without an accompanying four-star price tag and a dress code. The menu features Italian fare done well, including delicious grilled meats and delectable wines. The space is big enough to hold a party crowd and casual enough for a solo bar meal or dinner with rug rats.

When I first heard plans for Blue Duck Tavern, I nearly wrote it off for fear that the former Melrose had truly become a dank tavern. Misnomer that it is, the tavern could not be more spacious and breezy. Though it can be uncomfortably loud, this restaurant has never failed to surpass my expectations. Jalapeño-laced pickled tomatoes, a huge bone of marrow, exceptionally fresh main dishes and seasonal fruit desserts with hand-churned ice cream rocketed this restaurant to the top of my list.

Buzz: Red velvet cupcakes available first thing in the morning? There are doughnuts, wifi and chocolates, but cupcakes! In the morning!

As we ticked off days leading up to the opening of the Cowgirl Creamery, I started compiling a Gurus' wishlist of the cheeses to try. By the time the store opened, we felt well-connected to Red Hawk, St. Pat, Fromage Blanc and Creme Fraiche. Who'd have guessed that the store would also introduce us to Sauternes-soaked cheese, McEvoy Ranch olive oil and so much more.

When the weather is nice, I know few better ways to enjoy the day than with a stroll through Old Town. The opening of Cathal Armstrong's Eamonn's/A Dublin Chipper offered just the place to stop off along the way. Armstrong elevates fish and chips with a secret batter recipe and a smattering of sauces. Though they're gourmet, the fish and chips are authentically greasy. Best of all, items from the chalkboard menu of fried fish, sausages and candy bars arrive in brown paper bags, so you can take them with you on your walk.

Ok, Komi isn't new, but the restaurant closed over the new year for renovations and opened with a revamped menu and fewer tables, so that's enough change for me. With an array of tempting mezzethakia that could include squash blossoms or delicate gyro, luscious entrees and a curiously sensational chocolate and olive oil dessert, this was one welcome return.

Named for a Parisian park, Montsouris fittingly feels like a quick trip to a French bistro. With rich fare, including buttery marrow and a hearty butcher steak, the former Johnny's Half Shell space looks as if it was always meant to become this bistro. It isn't the finest dining, but it does not try to be. With a glass of wine and a generous serving of fries, Montsouris is simply, well, a walk in the park.

When it comes to good eats for bargain basement prices, few restaurateurs can compete with Michael Landrum of Ray's the Steaks. With word of his new venture, Ray's the Classics, many hoped that Landrum would again achieve his quirky, but winning formula. Sure enough, the restaurant is like a throwback to another era. Dinner entrees come with a complimentary salad, while appetizers like deviled eggs are a modern take on nostalgic favorites. Plus, I have yet to find a fried chicken that can compete with the moist flavors of the Ray's version. Even Landrum, who used to patrol Steaks in Hawaiian shirts, goes Classics in a full suit and tie.

When Stoney's shuttered early this year, the Gurus' collective sigh could be heard 'round the city. So, when it finally reopened last month in a new Logan Circle location, we were willing to temporarily suspend our skepticism to check it out. Though the new space is cleaner than the old location could have ever been, the Stoney's soul shines through with plenty of beer, our favorite grilled cheeses and enough seats to accommodate the new local crowd that is coming to know and love Stoney's.

Lastly, I tip my hat to a dish that finally turned my tastebuds in favor of beets. Chef Tony Conte of the Oval Room offers a dish of roasted baby beets with passionfruit gelee and horseradish (the recipe ran in the Food section in September). A mixture of sweet and spicy that blends textures and gorgeous colors, this dish opened my eyes to the possibilities of what were once my most-abhorred produce item -- ever since I took them from the Sizzler salad bar at age five thinking that they were cranberry sauce. I'll probably still avoid them in their standard capacity, but I will go out of my way to enjoy them when Conte gets his hands on them.

--Erin

By Erin  | December 29, 2006; 10:38 AM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  
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Comments

Nice call on those beets. That dish is truly amazing, even if I did get enough horseradish in one bite to make me cry.

Posted by: Metrocurean | December 29, 2006 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Ray's the Classics has since stopped the complimentary salads... a bit of a downer to my inaugural visit a few weeks ago.

Posted by: Dana | January 5, 2007 2:29 PM | Report abuse

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