Having some off-time between Christmas and New Year’s we decided to visit friends who are living in Alexandria (that’s Virginia, not Egypt). We braved airport security and booked a last-minute flight to Washington. What follows is a recounting of our 24 hours and three meals in Alexandria.
It was a short one-hour flight and a 10 minute drive to picturesque Old Town Alexandria where we were staying at the Lorien Hotel and Spa. We checked in and headed over to the Brabo Tasting Room adjacent to the hotel for a quick bite. This is a small space, but very bright and open with a laid back casual dining environment and an impressive wine list (offered in taste (3 oz), glass (6 oz) and bottle sizes). We had a very tasty lunch of:
- Roasted pepper, arugula and kalamata olive tart (flatbread pizza) $14
- Five Onion Soup with Gruyere $8
- Baby spinach salad $9
The flatbread had a fantastic crispy crust and just the right amount of toppings to make this more than a bread dish without overwhelming the palate. The onion soup was very rich and seasoned beautifully. It was made with a strong beef broth base and had wonderfully surprising additions of crisp-fried onion and fresh spring onion. Finally, the baby spinach salad – well prepared with a lovely dressing and a garnish of chopped egg.
After lunch we were picked up by our friends and spent the next few hours catching up over appetizers and drinks at their place. Later that evening, they took us out to Washington for dinner at Zaytinya. The menu is a modern take on Greek, Arabic and Turkish foods, and offers an impressive variety of spreads, cheeses, seafood, meat and chicken dishes – all served mezze style. We were really excited by the descriptions of the dishes and were hoping to be wowed. It was a little hit and miss as some dishes were exceptional while others were run of the mill.
- Brussel Afelia ($8): crispy, pan-fried and so good we ordered seconds – of BRUSSEL SPROUTS!
- Grape-Leaves Dolmades ($7): well put together but with too much lemon
- Kolokithokeftedes ($ 7.50): You couldn’t taste the zucchini because of the overpowering cheese flavor.
- Bantijan Bil Laban ($8): thick and crispy slices of eggplant with a roasted garlic-yogurt sauce
- Patates Tiganites Me Yaourti ($5.50): Simply prepared french fries with yogurt
- Octopus Santorini ($12): grilled octopus with a yellow split pea puree. This one had a funky taste and we sent it back because it was awful.
- Kibbeh ($8): good but played down to appeal to a western palate
- Hünkãr Beğendi ($10.50): a Turkish braised lamb shank served with an eggplant-kefalograviera (greek cheese) puree, well-cooked and nice balance of flavours
- Shish Taouk ($9.50) – tender pieces of grilled chicken breast
After a reasonable night’s sleep we woke up looking for a hearty breakfast before heading back to the airport for our flight to Toronto. The hotel has a fine-dining restaurant and this is where we were served our meal.
Breakfast at Brabo
- Steel-cut oatmeal with fresh seasonal fruit ($8): simple but beautifully presented
- Egg-white spinach omelet with gruyere cheese ($14): absolutely divine, fluffy egg bursting with flavour and complimented with crispy home fries
If it’s not already obvious, we basically ate our way through 24 hours in Alexandria. While our stay was short and we didn’t stray far afield in our dining choices, we sampled some excellent food that bodes well for a longer stay in the future.