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Montmartre’s monsieur: Put some cheese on that mofo.
This has happened to all of us who’ve become fans of a particular restaurant: The place lets us down.
Sometimes the disappointment is (relatively) minor, like when the kitchen runs out of a favorite dish or drops the plate entirely from the menu. But then there’s the kind of disappointment that I encountered this weekend at Montmartre on Capitol Hill: During Sunday’s brunch service, the operation seemed to have shed its thick, fatty bistro skin and adopted the mantle of every other joint catering to America’s fear of calories and offal.
I know what you’re thinking: “Relax, Tim, it’s just brunch, pandering to the easiest of all restaurant-goers, those people who think four-cheese omelets are sophisticated.” I would agree with you if it were any place other than Montmartre, where I have previously enjoyed brunch plates as righteously rich as liver and coarsely ground country pâté shot through with lots of flavor-heavy fat. Yesterday’s brunch, by contrast, was a hollow imitation of a bistro lunch.
Let’s start with the latest version of the country pâté, which would have barely tripped my taste buds if it hadn’t been for the coarse salt sprinkled on top and the plum sauce stuffed in the middle of it. This was like the Lean Cuisine of pâté, if that’s possible.
My guest’s croque-monsieur was a bigger slap at the French Republic and its affinity for that one-two coronary punch of butter and cheese. The bread, barely toasted and with nary any butter, was whole wheat or multi-grain, which gave the sandwich an odd texture and, dare I say, a healthy nutty flavor. The crusts were still attached, too. The final insult was the cheese/béchamel sauce, which I know is optional on the monsieur but which has become standard on just about every other version served in town, including the one at Cafe du Parc, where the sandwich is practically laminated with the stuff. The cheese didn’t even cover the top of the croque-monsieur at Montmartre, which meant that some bites were as dry as…toasted whole wheat bread.
Listen, if I wanted to watch my calories — if I wanted a standard-issue soup, like the mediocre gazpacho on Montmartre’s brunch menu — I wouldn’t go to a bistro. I’d go to Teaism or Chix or some such place.
Now your turn, readers: What old favorite has let you down recently? E-mail your experiences to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll post the best (or worst, as it were) ones on the Young & Hungry blog.