This week was restaurant week in the DC metro area. It lasts from August 19 to 25 and includes over 240 restaurants. The pricing is interesting and is currently based on the calendar year…so lunch, no matter where you go, is $20.13, and dinner is $35.13. How much food you get depends on where you eat.

This is only the second time I’ve participated in a restaurant week, but I think they’re fantastic and always want to hit as many restaurants as possible, which usually just means only one or two. The first time was in Denver, and we went to out to dinner at a Scottish gastro pub called Argyll with some friends from Antarctica.

It was nice to see them, but our son was only a few months old at the time, so we felt a little guilty that we took him out so late at night and surrounded him with lots of people in a “pub” type atmosphere. (“You have a baby?? In a bar??”) But he slept through most of it in his carrier anyway, so I suppose it really wasn’t that big of a deal.

This time he was a couple years older, so we met up with some new Foreign Service friends and went to a place in Falls Church called Pizzeria Orso. It was a kid-friendly Italian restaurant with a decent menu and yummy gourmet pizzas. For our $35.13 we got two appetizers, two 12-inch pizzas and two desserts, which was about a $60 value.

So we ordered the Fried Calamari with Basil Aioli, and the Pork Belly with Mushroom Ragu and Creamy Polenta. For pizzas, we had the “Orso” with mozzarella, pecorino tuscano, fontina, grana, ricotta, garlic, and prosciutto, and the “Toscana” with tomato, mozzarella, ham, salami, sausage, and pepperoni. And we topped it all off with tiramisu and carrot cake for dessert. They also had a rockin’ beer menu. So even though they were out of the Highland Gaelic Ale, my second choice of Vienna Lager on draft was well worth it.

Both of the appetizers were very tasty, and I was really impressed with the Orso pizza. The crust actually had a hint of sourdough, which really added to the flavor, the garlic was lightly shaved like almond slices, and the prosciutto was robust but mild enough that it wasn’t overpowering. The Toscana was okay, a little too meaty for me, but my hubby seemed to really enjoy it. But the desserts were a little disappointing. The tiramisu was nicely presented in a martini glass, but it was very watery and could’ve used more Kahlua. And my hubby said the carrot cake was unremarkable.

My other restaurant-week experience was kind of a girls’ night with my good girlfriend from Belize. They’re on their way to Santiago, Chile, and were staying in Oakwood for a week of training. I was so happy to be able to spend some time with her! So we cruised over to a place called Open Kitchen. They also offer cooking classes and wine tastings on and off throughout the week.

Here, our $35.13 got about half of what it had earlier in the week, and we weren’t that impressed. We were each allowed three courses, so we tried to select things we both liked and shared. We ended up with House Made Country Paté with Pickled Onion; Roasted Beet Salad with Blue Cheese Cream, Spiced Walnuts, Orange-Red Chile Vinaigrette; Grilled Black Angus Hanger Steak; Pan-Roasted White Fish; followed by Flourless Mexican Chocolate Torte with Summer Cherries and Salted Caramel, and Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Agro-Dolce Peaches and Black Pepper Honey.

Whenever presented with menu items with such ridiculously long titles, I try to look for keywords so I don’t get caught up in all the adjectives. At any rate, the “paté” was more like a terrine…instead of a spread it was more like a slice of marbled Spam on stale bread. I’ve had “roasted beets” before and really liked them, but these were simply cubed and tasted like they were right out of the can. The steak was chewy even though it was medium-rare, and the white fish was completely bland and seemed to be served in a puddle of minestrone soup.

But the wine was good. My friend is currently on a dry rosé kick, so we split a bottle of Charles & Charles Rosé 2012 from the Columbia Valley. And the desserts were really impressive. The goat cheese cheesecake was subtle and fantastic, and it’s hard to go wrong with chocolate.

So, all in all, I would say that DC restaurant week was a success!! Good food, good friends, and some tasty beverages. A good time had by all! 🙂