Painted Cakes & CityZen

I wish I was a food writer so I could describe the most incredibly delectable meal my husband and I experienced at CityZen at the Mandarin Hotel. It was pure food-as-art perfection, even with the sea urchin, which I can happily say I’ve braved that but won’t be having again. What Chef Eric Ziebold did with it was extraordinary, serving it with a garlic flavored flan that was divine, but even though it looked cooked, the texture was so slimy that I thought I had eaten something on the Survivor challenge and passed. When discussing this with our waitress, it was confirmed that we should have chopped it up and mixed it in with the flan. Well, now I know but no next time. Despite this, the entire dining experience was exceptional from ambiance, to delicious food and wine pairings, to outstanding wait staff and service to even the music. I couldn’t believe they were playing Raidohead, a band Peter and I find so personal we just looked at each other and toasted. Someone in the kitchen really knows their food and music and had a great iPod playlist for us all to enjoy.

We had taken our son, Piers, to Sou’Wester, Ziebold’s other restaurant to celebrate his 21st birthday. It was kind of surreal that he could order a cocktail with us. The food was good there too but being from New Orleans, I’m a pretty big critic regarding “Southern” food and it didn’t quite past muster with me. Granted they were only a week old at the time and Ziebold’s Midwestern roots may have explained a lot. We could see CityZen through the glass doorway, since the two restaurants shared the same restroom facilities. We had been longing to go there for a while.

We finally dined there this past Friday. When we arrived a signed birthday card from the chef and all the staff was waiting for me at the table, which happened to be the best seat in the house — around the corner from the main dining room, in the wine alcove. There were only a few other parties so it was pretty private. The birthday card was a nice touch because it wasn’t over the top or embarrassing. We had a choice of the Tasting Menu or the A la Carte Dinner Menu. It was a hard choice and honestly that sea urchin for the first course almost made me choose the other side, but I’m so glad we went with the Tasting Menu and the Wine Pairing — a pretty penny — almost as much as Citronelle where we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary and we figured we were spending about $100 an hour! Ouch, but both of these are so worth it. If you have an opportunity to celebrate a special occasion, please consider CityZen, for it will be one of those meals you will always remember. No wonder, CityZen never fails to have the highest rating on the annual restaurant guide and is considered one of the best dining experiences in the entire DC area. I wholeheartedly agree.

cityzen-restaurant -- our table in the corner

When we left, they had the Tasting Menu and Wine Pairing lists packaged for me in an envelope so I can always remember. They must have known I treasure these things for the memories they bring.

This has been a three day unexpected blitz of a birthday. My drinking buddy girlfriends took me out Thursday at Cheestique. A fun neighborhood place we like, with it’s hip bar area in the back, beyond the deli style cheese case and the gourmet shop in front. Luckily, my friend Patsie got confused and thought my birthday was on the 18th (hey, this happens when you get older, we just toasted to it), and Peter and I went out Friday with good friends before having a fabulous meal, and then out again for lower-key, comfort food with more friends on Saturday. I view these get-togethers as bountiful presents, enhancing my extended celebration. Honestly, if I didn’t have such great friends and a loving husband and family, I probably would have forgotten my birthday but I guess it’s worth celebrating the big ones every five years.

Birthday Flowers & Cards. Art Is Everywhere blog

Coincidentally, as I was going through mounds of papers to throw away, before my business group descended upon my house last Thursday, I came across this beautiful painted cake by Kendall. I looked at the name again, and realized I had been saving this clipping for over a year and Kendall is my good friend, Liza’s cousin. I’ll have to try one of her cakes, although this one looks too good to eat, like ruining a Chagall masterpiece.

Cakes by Kendall. Photo by Renee Comet for the Washington Post

I should mention a bit of icing that topped off my birthday. Since I’m going backwards in my description, the day started with a blog posting by Jennifer Sergent in DC by Design about my business group meeting and Casart coverings. Many thanks, Jennifer, that was a great post! I’ll be writing about this on Wednesday.

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