Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Little Fountain Cafe

The bustling stretch of 18th street in Adams Morgan is probably not where you'd go if looking for a romantic hideaway of a restaurant. But friends, hidden deep within the land of Jumbo Slice, hipster bars, and shots is The Little Fountain Cafe. Stepping down into the restaurant from the busy street is like stepping into Hansel and Gretel's hood. It is cozy and quaint with an old world charm. Though it is often recommended by Tom Sietsema in his weekly chats, it took a Groupon to finally get us in the door.

The Groupon expires in mid-February and, according to our waitress, most of the 899 people who purchased one waited until the last month to use it. As a result, the staff had a bit of Groupon fatigue. Lucky for you, after February 11th the Groupon reign is over.

The fun thing about getting food at a discount, is that you get to sample more items from the menu than you normally might. We splurged and each ordered an appetizer. B, always searching for his favorite crab cake, test drove The Little Fountain Cafe's version and pronounced them worthy of a place in the crustacean hall of fame.

I tried the cheese plate trio with warm almond-crusted goat cheese with fig preserves, brie with truffle oil, and stilton with honeyed walnuts. I gobbled up the cheese with the help of the grilled bread and loved the contrast in cheeses and cheese companions (particularly the honeyed walnuts). A couple of apple slices would've made this soar to another stratosphere.

Cold weather makes me crave pasta so I zeroed in on the Neopolitan-style eggplant and tomato sauce over fettucine with parmigiano reggiano. Just typing the words "parmigiano reggiano" makes me cringe because it reminds me of the way Giada and Serena (the most annoying TV food show contestant ever) say it. Since the eggplant was so finely diced, it felt much like a meaty ragu. This hearty dish was just what I needed to thaw out.

I bet you think I'm going to tell you that B ordered lamb. He probably would have but it wasn't on the menu. Instead of having a lack of lamb pity party, he shocked me by ordering the roast chicken. In all of our meals together (and there have been thousands over the years) I can't remember B ordering chicken in a restaurant. It was a decision he would not regret as The Little Fountain Cafe's bird was juicy, nestled on a cozy bed of fried garlic. B is that guy who eats the garlic at the bottom of the garlic fries at the baseball game, so he was one happy camper with this dish. While the broccoli was forgettable, hidden beneath Mr. Clucky was a creamy potato gratin.

We were feeling a bit too full for dessert but we learned that our waitress was also the pastry chef. Never wanting to hurt anyone's feelings, we "forced" ourselves to try dessert. Life can be so hard sometimes. I am happy to report that the warm milk chocolate buttermilk cake with coffee ice cream was worth risking the buttons on our jeans for.

The next time you're looking to impress a date with a quiet, cozy dinner, don't forget about The Little Fountain Cafe. After dinner you can head upstairs to their bar, Angles, for a sip from one of the city's largest whiskey collections and a game of pool. If eating in Hansel and Gretel's hood is not what you're looking for, you can order from the full cafe menu (plus a bar menu) at Angles.

Second Thoughts from B

How many stories begin with the premise of a curious child stumbling across a portal to a fantastic new world? Thousands I am sure. And I hope there is room for one more because J and I just found DC's rabbit hole/wardrobe/pixy dust/flux capacitor/red pill/wolf pajamas/Zoltar machine.

In our culinary journeys throughout the city, I can't think of anything like the Little Fountain Cafe. It is a quaint (but watch your head on the low doorways!) oasis that transports you to a simpler time when vegetables were grown out back and paired with game from the neighboring forest. If it was a house, you'd call it a cottage. If there was a fireplace, it would be a hearth. If it was correct to say, you might refer to the waitress as a maiden. It was that kind of transformative place.

And the quality of the food was part of the whole experience. Simple, fresh, and perfectly prepared. As J likes to say, a place like this doesn't put roasted chicken on the menu unless it is really good. To take it a step further, a waitress doesn't recommend the roasted chicken unless it is really, really good. And it was. Normally I have a hard time ordering things that I can easily make myself but this was the perfect meal for this perfect escape from our normal lives.
Little Fountain Cafe on Urbanspoon

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