The Linen Lunch

I enjoy a nice lunch. It's my thing. I am so very over shoving a fast salad into my mouth, at my desk, while simultaneously answering e-mails. At my former job, I would be mid-bite when Melissa would scream from down the hall in thick Brooklynese, "LSD!! Get in here!" I'd grab a napkin, make sure there was no romaine in my teeth and scramble to the fit room to see what she was screaming about.

"Where did this pant originate?"

"It's from the Alyssa pant, which used to be the Norell pant with cuffs and a 1" waistband, which I believe came from the Eileen Black Label pant. Pattern CH31. "

"Awesome, you rock, thanks"

You see, that was the problem with having an insane memory in a work environment where research just takes too long. Why look through the history notes of a Product Development Manager tech sheet when LSD knows exactly what you need? Who cares if she's in the middle of lunch?

That was when I'd decided to actually take my lunch hour out of the office. When I decided no more would I sit praying for uninterrupted silence in hopes of proper digestion. I would take my behind to a proper restaurant with proper linen napkins and Jack's became my spot of choice. It's a great little place right in the heart of the fashion district with a pretty diverse menu. There are regulars who frequent the restaurant for lunch and bartenders John and Liam know exactly what you like and remember everytime. My favourite there was the tuna burger that I would order without the bun, but with extra ginger-mustard glaze. I'm pretty sure this menu option was a blatant bite from the famous tuna burger served at Union Square Cafe. I've recreated this burger with a good degree of success and I suggest you try it too, but today, we're talking about something else. My new favourite. 701 Club on Pennsylvania Avenue.

When I first started working at the Smithsonian, I was at a loss for what to do at lunch. I'd accustomed myself to eating pretty well and I just couldn't go to Subway and sit in a rank plastic booth to enjoy my lunch hour. I'm a Libra, I need delicious cuisine, a good glass of wine, and ambiance to boot. When I asked my new colleagues where they went, I was shocked at how frequently I got, "there's a McDonalds right down the street!". Clearly, we wouldn't be enjoying our lunch hours together. It's a bit of a walk, but I started heading to the best place I knew in Penn Quarter. I know that area pretty well since my Dad's office is right there, so I walked into my favourite downtown lunch spot, 701. It's owned by a guy named Ashouk who owns a few choice spots in DC. They know me there (via my pops) so it felt comfortable and I felt welcome. Sometimes I become a creature of habit, so I found myself at the 701 bar several days out of the week. One day last week, I decided to deviate from my usual and try the black bass on the menu. It was heavenly. The portion was perfect and whatever sauce they used was divine. I started picking around to see where the flavors were coming from and found a delightful array of random ingredients that worked wonders together. It looked as if the black bass still had the skin and was sitting atop a bed of french lentils. Haricot verts, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers and grapes rounded out the mix and it was all topped with this mysterious, light and frothy cream sauce. I decided then and there that I had to try to recreate this dish at home. I knew I could recreate the fish and the vegetables, but I hadn't a clue as to how to attempt the sauce. After a few attempts at the sauce, it was obvious I'd need a bit more instruction, so I followed the advice of my dear friend Shannon. You don't ask and you don't get. So I marched right into 701 and was greeted by Will, the sommelier. He's a fan of LSD so didn't mind a bit giving up the details of the delicious dish.

So I tried tried again. This time to wonderous success. Only one catch. I ommitted the artichoke hearts because, well, they just aren't my favourite.

So here's what went down. I started making my meez by preparing all ingredients. I took a red pepper and charred it right on my stove burner on all sides. I peeled it, sliced it and set about a quarter of it aside for immediate use. I decided I'd prepare the green beans for steaming since I knew my fat content would be increased with the delicious emulsion with which I'd finish off the dish, so I definitely didn't want to sautee them. I sliced a quarter cup of green beans into julienne strips and set aside. I took about 6 or 8 red grapes, sliced those in half and set aside then measured about 1/4 cup of french lentils and set those aside as well. Lentils only take about 20 minutes to cook, so I started boiling 3/4 cup of vegetable stock and added the lentils when the stock came to an active simmer. I set up my "steamer" (all clad double boiler works just as well) and waited for the water to boil. The green beans and grapes would steam while the lentils simmered for their last 5 minutes.

Now for the fish. I took a 5oz filet of black bass and seasoned lightly with salt and pepper then sauteed on both sides with a tiny bit of olive oil. Easy, right?

Here's a tip: buy a travel size spray bottle and fill with olive oil. Use this to coat the pan instead of pouring straight from the bottle. It's like cooking spray without that weird chemical that propels the oil from the can.

OK, here's where you have to make a true, grown up decision. I am going to give you the recipe for the emulsion, but it is at your own risk. The basis of it is cream and butter, ensuring it's deliciousness, but increasing your fat intake. I used half of this emulsion on my bass, but if I can get myself down to a quarter, I will loudly proclaim that I, indeed, rock a party.

Gather together in a sauce pan 2 tablespoons of cream, a tablespoon of butter, 1 tablespoon of white port and 1/2 tablespoon of champagne vinegar. Combine over low heat, then emusify if you have the appliance or beat with a whisk until frothy.

I tried to plate this dish just the way they did at 701, so I took a shallow bowl and placed my cooked lentils at the bottom then added the haricot verts, the grapes and the roasted peppers. On top, I placed the black bass. Then poured my deliciously creamy, delectably sinful sauce right on top of the fish and let the veggies catch the goodness. I want to try this dish with an Arneis, but my insticts tell me a subtle Chardonnay is probably the way to go. I enjoyed with a lovely Chablis (chablis is actually a chardonnay, who knew?) because the typical buttery, oakey, Chardonnay is not my favourite, but by all means, experiment with what you like.

Bon Appetit!

The Deal (with sauce):
Calories: 398; Fat: 16g; Carbs: 22g; Protein: 38g
(without sauce)
Calories: 272; Fat: 5g; Carbs: 20g; Protein: 38g

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