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The Dish: Hudson Valley duck leg confit
The Location: Rustico, 827 Slaters Lane, Alexandria, (703) 224-5051
The Price: $15
The Skinny: A ruddy-face man has just ordered a flight of beers on the patio at Rustico as the late-afternoon sun fights with a March wind to provide the proper outdoor quaffing climate. Unfortunately, another customer’s old hounds—-two fleshy beasts with either a nose for beer or attention—-won’t leave the poor guy alone. Between pets and other arm movements to keep the pooches from knocking over his tray of brews, the man barely has a moment to hoist a glass. Meanwhile, inside the bar, I keep turning my attention from the man outside to the college basketball game on the TV screens over the counter. Texas and Kansas are locked in a terrific overtime game. For this classic Sunday afternoon, I have ordered the classic bar food: duck confit. Do I hear you giggling? Perhaps you think Frank Morales has overstepped his mandate in trying to inject a little class into the suds-drenched fare at Rustico? Well, I say the former Zola chef is onto something here: This dish has all the fat requirements of your basic burger and far more flavor, thanks to those producers at Hudson Valley, who turn out one tasty duck. Morales slow cooks that well-seasoned leg until most of the fat is rendered and the meat falls apart at the slightest application of a fork; this richness helps cut a signature Morales flavoring agent—-a touch of honey, sourwood in this case, not to mention a scorched, caramelized clementine and a couple of deflated sweet peppers, which add their heady juices to the mixture, not unlike certain sweet-and-piquant condiments you might find in a pub. All these ingredients combine for a meaty, multilayered meal that makes for a fine alternative to the bar burger. In some weird way, it even reminds me of a bar burger. It’s a good thing those hounds are outside, or I’d never keep them away from this delicious dish.