Sunday, December 27, 2009

Eating on the Cheap at TJ's

One of my favorite friends suggested grabbing a bite at TJ's tonight and, really, what could be a better way to spend the last night of the long Christmas weekend than with a fellow food and wine lover I hadn't seen in a couple of weeks?

We got an early start, arriving at the Jefferson around 6 ready to talk and eat.

Neither of us had anticipated the large number of people lounging around the lobby and eating and drinking at Lemaire and TJ's tonight.

We began upstairs at Lemaire, sharing a quartino of Dolcetto d'Alba DOC Ada Nada from Piedmont while noshing on a tray of excellent olives and peanuts.

Heading downstairs, we discovered that TJ's had not a single open table in its dining room, but we were happy to eat in the bar area just off the rotunda.

We settled into a two-top and eagerly opened our menus.

The menu was a revelation; everything listed under appetizers and salads was priced at either $6 or $7, making TJ's one of the most affordable places to eat well that I know of.

I began with the seasonal soup, a cannellini bean with ham and Parmesan pureed into a thick and creamy consistency; it was a large bowl and extremely filling.

I followed that with Cornbread and Surry Sausage-Stuffed Quail with Granny Smith apples, Swiss chard and Herbed Gnocchi in Balsamic Jus.

If you think this sounds like a full meal for $13, you'd be correct.

The stuffing and quail were perfectly delicious and an ample serving to boot.

My friend had the Frisee and Granny Smith apple salad with Duck Confit after the Garlic-Roasted Burgundy Escargots over Parmesan Risotto, mushrooms, shallots and parsley.

The risotto was perfectly cooked and seasoned (and somebody else did all that stirring).

She upped the ante with a soul-satisfying side of the Swiss Chard with poached Bing Cherries.

Her meal topped out at a whopping $17 and she found it to be more than enough.

We continued to share quartinos, first a Pinot Noir, followed by a Temperanillo.

We're both big fans of the quartino, allowing as it does a generous enough pour to share.

We like to enjoy a variety of wines during a meal and the quartino allows moving from grape to grape economically throughout a meal.

What could be better?

Service was friendly and attentive and we were not rushed as we meandered through course after course and lingered over wine afterwards.

 TJ's was clearly the destination of choice for a whole lot of people tonight and it was clear by the end of our meal why.

An inexpensive meal in a grand setting is an appealing way to finish a holiday weekend, whether it has been a joyous or bittersweet one.

I'm hoping next year's will be more the former than the latter.

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