Sampling tapas in McLean

With its tasteful décor, Evo Bistro in McLean is apparently always busy on Wednesday evenings.

“This place is bustling on Wednesdays. Wine bottles are half priced …. a pretty good deal for wine lovers like me” said Liz McCarey, a customer visiting from Arlington.

evo1Accompanied by a friend, I visited this restaurant on one such evening to sample it’s Mediterranean style tapas. My friend was eager to try out the restaurant’s automated self-serve wine serving machine that he had read about online. At Evo Bistro, customers can sample any of the wines offered by loading up a wine debit card and using it to run the tab.

We ordered several tapas that were nicely presented, flavored, and cooked well. The tapas were $6 each due to Happy hour; their prices are higher during regular hours.

The first dish that arrived was Grilled Artichokes. Marinated with jalapeño aioli, the baby artichoke halves were quite delicious.

Chicken Kebabs was another dish we ordered, which were served with hummus and tasted better than average. We also had lamb sliders which tasted pretty good.

evo2The highlight of my evening was a dish called Les Moules. It consisted of mussels sautéed in olive oil with tomato, garlic, basil, oregano and feta cheese.  Besides having basil which is one of my favorite herbs, the dish was also topped with a sprinkling of chili flakes. It had just the right amount of kick in it without being too spicy, tasted exceptional and I would definitely recommend it.

My friend tried various wines as they let you try one ounce of a bottle of wine to see if you like it or not, even with bottles that cost above $200. His tab ran high but he was quite happy with the experience.

We also had an opportunity to chat with the executive chef, Ticara Smith, who joined the restaurant in 2011. Her focus is on a seasonally inspired Mediterranean menu and she not only supervises the food preparation but also handles the menu creation and wine pairing.

The service was outstanding from start to finish as well as the restaurant’s ambiance being warm and inviting.

“This is one of our favorite local hang-outs; a go-to location for McLean residents”, remarked a local resident when I asked how often she visited this place.

We thoroughly enjoyed the experienceand will probably be back there for more.

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Small Plate Recipes you can make at home!

By now you might’ve figured out that we at PetitePlatesDC (myself included) love small plates. It’s also not a surprise that we are a group on a budget – living the grad school life.

If you are in a similar financial situation or just like saving a few bucks, we feel your pain (no really, we do) but you don’t have to miss out on the great taste of tapas or the fresh, crisp flavors of mezze if you’re on a budget – just make your own! There’s literally nothing you can’t create with a trip to the grocery store and an hour in the kitchen.

So, I’ve collected a few recipes that are easy to make and delicious to eat – by yourself or with friends!

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Flamenco and Tapas at La Tasca

La Tasca is a prime spot in Clarendon for tapas and sangria after a long work week. Its Arlington location is one of five in the DC Metro area.

After making the reservations on OpenTable , two friends and I were excited to indulge in the restaurant that presents itself as an authentic Spanish experience. The atmosphere did not disappoint. When we arrived, we were ushered up the large wrought iron staircase to the top of the two-level establishment that’s decorated in rich shades of gold, red, and green.

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The upstairs bar at La Tasca in Clarendon

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What to look for when navigating some of D.C.’s famous spots

What experiences can people expect when eating out at small plates restaurants? Knowing what to look for when reading the menu is a start. This is not your typical listing of appetizers, entrées and desserts. Let’s look at some of the famous ones, shall we?

Jaleo

If you’ve lived in the D.C. Metro area for a while, then you have most likely heard about José Andrés showcasing tapas in his restaurant Jaleo.

This restaurant has multiple branches, including one in Las Vegas. The original is in D.C.’s Penn Quarter, so I think that’s the most relevant menu to look at here.

Most categories are listed in Spanish without any English translations, but the translated parts make it possible to understand. For example, “Verduras” emphasizes vegetables. However, the section “Conos, latas y más” can be confusing, even when the reader is pretty sure the title translates into “Cones, canned foods and more.”

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Twisted Vines Bottleshop & Bistro

This sophisticated wine bar serves up a heaping of tasty small plates, perfectly paired with a vast selection of libations. Opened in 2010 by husband-and-wife team Josh and Sybil Robinson, Twisted Vines offers small plates as dinner options and 100 plus wines from Spain, Uruguay and Australia, to name a few. If the Zagat rating isn’t enough to pique your interest, consider the tasty tidbits on the menu. I ordered the $6 Twisted Trio, which comes with roasted olives, Marcona almonds, and a sweet and zesty cranberry peanut mix.

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The Twisted Trio
Photo by Paulina Kosturos

When I asked the waiter, Eduardo, or self-dubbed “very handsome waiter,” what to pair with the trio, he responded by giving me a brief history of wine pairings. According to Eduardo, the French wanted to make more money on selling wines. So they began insisting that only certain foods be paired with certain wines.

And so the story goes, food and wine pairings were born.

While this remains debatable (Read up on the origins of food pairings here), the trio serves as the perfectly salty snack for the red wine drinker. According to Eduardo, a full to medium-bodied wine brings out the intense flavors of the food, making for a bolder taste.

“It’s like drinking beer and scotch,” he said.

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