Friday, September 9, 2011

Cork Market & Tasting Room

B's mom loves food and she also loves reading Bon Appetit. She frequently mails us clippings from the magazine about DC restaurants. We were thrilled when she sent us the "Top 10 Best Places for Fried Chicken" featuring DC's Cork Market & Tasting Room. It's no secret that we love fried chicken and will travel to great lengths to try it, evidenced by the fact that we stumbled across our favorite local fried chicken at an old gas station way out in rural Maryland.

Last Wednesday, we were having a heck of a time deciding what we wanted for dinner when I recalled the Bon Appetit article and thought I read that Cork serves up its famous fried birds on Wednesdays. B drove me over to 14th Street where I hopped out of the car and into Cork Market & Tasting Room.

Cork looks like any typical wine store when you first enter. I'm sure they have a fabulous selection and very knowledgeable helpers, but I was on a mission for food not vino. I saw a cold case in the rear of the store with food in it and made a beeline for it. The case contained some cold salads, calzones, and a few pieces of the fried chicken!

To get a little variety (and the appearance of something healthy) I chose the farro salad with wild mushrooms, spring onions, and preserved lemon. I love funky, chewy textures so this was right up my alley. The chew of the farro combined with the soft mushrooms and tart lemon was a perfect, light counterpart to the fried chicken.

Next, I chose two large pieces of chicken. As the food was being boxed up, I asked for a recommendation on reheating the chicken. She said that some people like it cold but if I wanted it hot, put it in the oven for a few minutes at 350 degrees. I followed the oven instructions and, while it warmed the chicken well, the crust was a bit on the soggy side. I think you'd be much better off eating the chicken cold (perhaps as part of a picnic as it was intended) than trying to heat it. If you like cold chicken, this had an outstanding flavor thanks to the garlic-herb marinade. I'm not really in the cold meat eating camp, so this chicken won't replace Kerrigan's as my favorite.

Because I always throw in one, awkward, mismatched food item when I'm ordering to-go, I tried the spinach and cheese calzone. It was also very flavorful and had a great crust, but suffered from the same soggy-when-heated syndrome as the chicken. Lesson learned: eat it all cold.

If you're packing a picnic, Cork is the place to go. The food is innovative, prepared with quality ingredients, and made to be eaten outside. I recommend calling them before you go if you really want to be sure a particular menu item is available. In the past, I read articles saying the fried chicken was only available Wednesday. I just called Cork and was told that the chicken is made on Thursdays and Saturdays. I guess that explains why there were only a few pieces left on Wednesday (and maybe also why the skin was on the soggy side). Give them a call to avoid chicken disappointment on your next visit.

Second Thoughts from B

I think that evaluating 4 day old, reheated fried chicken is unfair to Cork. As it was, I was convinced that the fried chicken was made with great skill and ingredients, but that I should have been eating it fresh out of the fryer. Little did I know that earlier in the week would have been more like it.

So I guess I'm grading on a curve here and trying to reconstruct what could have been. Do they get an "A" since 4 day old chicken tasted like 4 hours old chicken? I supposed you could make that argument but I'd lean towards an incomplete. But when coupled with the farro salad and calzone that stood up to refrigeration much better, I think Cork at least earned a chance to retake the test.
Cork Market & Tasting Room on Urbanspoon

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