Hey everybody. I know it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me. I’ve unfortunately put the review thing on the backburner for a while, but I am now back up and in full swing. I’m sure some of you have missed me (yeah, right) and perhaps some of you haven’t (or really just haven’t even noticed). Anyway, I’d like to bounce back into action by sharing a small Georgetown gem with you.
This past week we got our first taste of snow. It was damn cold, but the very sight of those large fluffy white flakes brought me joy. After watching the snow fall all day from my window at work, there was only one thing I could think about the second I hit the time clock. It wasn’t a thought to get home as quickly as I could to avoid the horrible, horrible DC drivers, (side note: Really, what is it? Everywhere else that I’ve lived people have driven calm and safe in the snow, but yet it seems that when the smallest amount falls, people lose all common sense and drive even more reckless than how they would have if it was dry. Sorry, I’m getting distracted) but it was one thing:
French Onion Soup
Hot damn, I do love it. The sweetness of the caramelized onion, the soft, toasted baguette and gloriously melted cheese all adds up to something special that warms my soul. Now I’ve made this soup more times than I can count, yet I’ve never been so impressed by something so simple and delicious. Perhaps it was the weather, or the mood I was in that day, but this soup brought me back to the snowed in days of living in New York, watching endless reruns of “The Price is Right” and blissfully calling out of work because my car was under three feet of snow. It is served in a traditional mini-croc. The soup to bread/cheese ratio is about 40/60. It comes straight out of the broiler and is very, very hot. Be careful not to dive in so fast, your mouth will get burned and will hate you for the rest of the day.
Bottom line, order the soup, order the soup, order the soup.
One of the main reasons I enjoy visiting Café La Ruche is that it is somewhat quiet. Like many others, I love to hate Georgetown, and walking on M St can make any sane person go postal. However, by making a quick turn down 31st St, all of the hustle and bustle goes away. The café is a long room with flags from all countries and endless pictures of French cafes on the wall. On one side there is half booth seating and free standing tables take up the rest of the restaurant. Some say that the main attraction is at the rear of the café; a delightful display case filled with pastries that may cause your eyes to fall out of your head. If you go there, you have to eat one. It doesn’t matter which one you choose, but at least one, if not three or four. Be careful not to jump straight to dessert however, there are many treats on the main menu to satisfy your belly.
So I’ve covered the soup, which brings us to the rest of the proper menu. On this particular visit, it wasn’t the escargot that caught my eye, but the spicy lamb sausages. Simply served over toasted baguette, these little sausages pack a punch. The casing was nice and crispy, and the seasoned meat inside was very tender. This dish was a little greasy for my taste, but the bread soaked it up nicely. I recommend this dish, or the escargot (if you’re down with snails) as an appetizer. I haven’t ordered the pate yet, but most likely will on my next visit.
For the entrée I decided to go off of the menu and order one of their nightly specials. The proper French name escapes me, but it was chicken braised in tomatoes, peppers and onions, served over rice. The meat was cooked beautifully and fell right off of the bone. The vegetables had a very nice flavor to them, probably seasoned with herbs de province. My date chose the Beef Bourgogne, a traditional northern dish of braised beef served over pasta. The taste brought to memory a traditional beef stew, but with an outstanding wine flavor. The portion sizes were large; you’ll definitely get your bang for the buck. Although we would have loved to eat every last bite, we had been eyeing the pastry display since we walked in the door.
After getting our leftovers packaged to-go, our waitress kindly invited us to pick our dessert from the display. They rotate them daily and they are freshly prepared. There was one that I had been staring at off and on since we had been sat, so it was an obvious choice for me. I pointed at it and sat back down. Our coffee and tea was delivered, and then this mammoth pastry arrived on our table. It was a Banana Cream Tart with Chocolate Icing.
Good god, this thing was huge!
In-between two layers of puff pastry was a banana pastry cream, with fresh slices on top. The icing was piped onto one side of the tart, which was great because it didn’t cause a chocolate overload (is that possible?) I guess what I’m trying to say is that it was an appropriate amount of chocolate, not to disturb the wonderful banana flavor. Although I would have liked to taste every dessert in that display case, my poor stomach just couldn’t allow it. We wrapped up tightly and made our way out into the slip-and-slide clusterfuck that was Georgetown on that snowy evening.
So next time you’re shopping, hanging out, people watching or whatever you may do in Georgetown, give this place a try. I find the atmosphere more enjoyable than Bistro François up the street. One thing to note, the servers are very kind and will serve you with a smile, but don’t expect intuitive service here. This is just one of the places that you have to kindly flag down your server if you would like anything after your food arrives.
If you are reluctant to do this, you may spend upwards of 30 minutes waiting to be asked if you would like your check. Don’t let that get you down, because I feel that everyone should pay a visit if you haven’t already. I wouldn’t want you to expect anything marvelous (like Eric Ripert’s new bistro at the Foggy Bottom Ritz, which I will gladly write the most eloquent, professional review I have ever written once BYT starts paying the bill) but something simple, quiet and tasty. Go to Café La Ruche, eat French Onion Soup and Pastries, and have fun.
Café La Ruche 1039 31st Street, NW Washington, DC 20007 Tel: 202-965-2684