Not quite ready for Congress to return to work (someone put 12 legislative days on the clock, please) next week? Local toque Jeremy Shelton sure is.
The executive chef at BLT Steak (1625 I St. NW) has been cranking out a number of recess treats for bargoers during the past month, a specialty carte — each item priced at $10 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. — that will (mostly) be retired come Monday.
“We have two menus every night plus happy hour as it is, now throw in 10 brand new dishes every time Congress goes into recess … It’s just a lot to keep track of,” Shelton said of the extra effort that’s been required to keep the seasonal snacks (he rolled out a similar slate when lawmakers decamped for spring break) a-coming.
Everything is, of course, prefaced by the incredibly fluffy, cheese-laced popovers BLT Steak drops off in front of every guest.
On the off chance that isn’t enough incentive to darken their door, the expense account haven also butters up patrons with warm, crusty country bread flanked by salty-rich country pate. (Another longstanding tradition, a la the complimentary popovers, that predates Shelton’s tenure in the kitchen.)
The gourmet nibbles Shelton dreamed up this time around ran the gamut from somewhat perplexing (a smoked trout salad was overwhelmed by bitter greens and bracing citrus) to utterly delicious.
The chef said he remains partial to an heirloom tomato number featuring chimichurri as well as rotating pork-powered sammies.
The grilled sausage patties served to us featured savory swine sandwiched between tangy pickled ramp relish and spicy mustard. Though small, the well-dressed burger knock-offs were quite satisfying. Our favorite pig product, however, was the crumbled Nduja sausage that fired up the underlying broth in a bowl of fragrant steamed clams.
The vegetable kingdom produced some real winners as well.
A thicket of tempura mushrooms glistened beneath a coating of kimchi mayo.
The fried maitakes are wonderfully crunchy while the dressing adds some zip.
Fresh radishes were partnered with a heart-stopping mass of lardo.
The naturally piquant root vegetables are rendered all the more ravishing via a splash of nutty olive oil and tongue-teasing vinaigrette. The accompanying spread oozes decadence, with brief flashes of black pepper slicing through the buttery fat.
And what meal would be complete without a little something chocolaty?
Shelton’s solution to the savory vs. sweet dessert conundrum is to satisfy both.
His homemade s’mores may look like traditional petit fours, but they harbor something extra special inside: whipped foie gras.
Shelton coats the outside of the airy offal in dark chocolate, tamps it down onto a mixture of crushed hazelnuts and graham cracker crumbs and then crowns his creation with glittering sea salt. The center is creamier — and tastier — than traditional marshmallow, and the vanilla-y hazelnut pieces bolster the whole experience.
“I think in some way or form, the Petit S’Mores will stick around. … They’re just too good not to have around to offer,” Shelton said of the temporary reprieve he plans to extend to the campground favorite come come next week.