Two weekends ago, I flew to our nation’s capitol to meet up with my family for our annual gathering. I always look forward to these gatherings but I was especially excited about this one. My brothers and I had planned a surprise 50th Golden Wedding Anniversary celebration for our parents. Our original intentions were to throw them a huge celebration with friends and family, but my parents hinted that they would prefer a small intimate family gathering instead. As I thought about their request I came to the same conclusion that this was definitely the way to go. A celebration of 50 years of marriage is really a personal one. It’s about one couple’s enduring love for one another as they journey through life sharing all the good and the bad times and celebrating the life and family that they built together. My parents were indeed surprised and even though our time together was short, we cherished every minute.
In my opinion, a celebration without exceptional food would definitely not be a celebration. With so many great restaurants to choose from in the DC area, my brothers and I decided to make it a two-day celebration- one evening with the immediate family and another one with extended family. My brother, who lives in the DC area, selected two outstanding restaurants worthy of such an important weekend.
CityZen was our dinner choice for the immediate family. It’s located inside the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The restaurant has been voted one of the top restaurants in the DC area. The inside of the restaurant is very slick and modern with very high ceilings and clean, chic décor – something I don’t get to see in New Mexico.
Signing a contract confirming our intention to dine there and having an opportunity to speak to a sommelier about wine selections before arriving for dinner are just two details demonstrating how CityZen is a smooth operation. Interestingly, if your party consists of more than 4 people, CityZen will create a tasting menu for your group consisting of fresh, seasonal and regional ingredients. They were very accommodating for my sister-in-law who is allergic to seafood and presented her with her very own tasting menu. They even offered to change any part of the menu that was not to our liking.
The chef trained at the French Laundry (a place that I hope to visit one day) and so, as expected the food was exceptional. The combination of ingredients was very creative with balanced flavors that work wonderfully together. To match the exceptional food, CityZen had exceptional service. We were never rushed, our every need was met without over attention, and the host offered a detailed explanation of every course before we took our first bite. My favorite was the seared Maine scallops with Asian flavors. I was very impressed with the synchronized serving of our food- every one of us had a personal server who laid the plate of food down in sync with the other servers! What a contrast to my childhood days where family dinners took place in the comforts of our home and cooked by my mother. At least the conversation continues to be just as entertaining!
Brasserie Beck Restaurant and Bar was the venue for the big Golden Wedding Anniversary celebration. This Belgium bistro is located on one of Washington’s busiest thoroughfares, K Street, once the home of major lobbying firms but now more known for dining and nightlife. This place, also one of DC’s best restaurants, was picked for its friendly, attentive service, delicious menu offerings, and reasonable prices. Lower ceilings with close quarters provide patrons a place where they can enjoy their food and conversation in an energetic but cozy atmosphere. We had our celebration in the Brabo room perfect for a party of 16 equipped with a large TV for a slideshow and lots of personalized service. Julie, the director of private dining, was a pleasure to work with, always responding to our emails quickly and providing attention to details. Ramon, the general manager, had great wine recommendations and offered me basic guidance in selecting French wines to pair with the meal (BB has an extensive wine list and a huge selection of brews). Being that this was a family gathering, this place allowed us to have the food served family style. Each course consisted of at least 3-4 large plates of food brought out and shared. This was the perfect way for everyone to taste every single item offered on the menu. While Brasserie Beck is well known for its steamed mussels and frites, everything on the menu was done exceptionally well. I was having such a great time dining and celebrating that I forgot to photograph the food- Sorry! Luckily, I remembered to save one of the printed menus to share. I hope that it will spark your imagination and entice your taste buds. There’s more…not included on the menu were the hors d’ oeuvres- caramelized onion apple tartlets, fresh shucked oysters (yum!), shrimp cocktail, North American bison tartar tartines, and artichoke prosciutto ricotta in phyllo. My favorites were the steamed mussels and duck breast and I heard the mango crème brûlée was to die for. As you can imagine, every one left the place well fed and impressed with Brasserie Beck. If I find myself back in DC, I will definitely dine there again!
What a whirlwind weekend! It was great to see my family and I’m especially thankful to have such wonderful parents. Together they provided my brothers and I everything we needed to become successful as we traveled down our own paths. For their grandchildren, they share their gifts of love, knowledge and advice and this is truly invaluable. Their legacy is one that my husband and I aspire to achieve with our own family. Fifty years later, it is clear to all that their love for each other remains as strong as ever and continues to grow. Happy 50th Anniversary, Mom and Dad!
CityZen, June 20, 2014
Brasserie Beck, June 21, 2014