There are certain meals you have in your life that deserve to be commemorated. We at FDC like to take the tongue-in-cheek approach to eatin’ fancy. It’s always been more about the Club part than the Fancy part. This time, however, I bought my then girlfriend Kate (now fianceé (woo!)) dinner at a place that’s Fancy with a capital F. And also a capital A,N,C, and Y. Pineapple and Pearls is DC’s first two Michelin star restaurant. The type of place you go when you’re feeling really irresponsible, but preplanned irresponsible because you better have a reservation. Kate and I decided to document the experience by being as present as possible. That meant no phones, no note taking, and a crappy disposable camera to handle the photos. It was going to be cute AF.
Unfortunately, CVS’ photo lab had other plans. Apparently developing regular ol’ film is hard to do. When Kate dropped off the photos, CVS said they had to ship the photos to Connecticut(!?!?!?) to be processed within 4-6 weeks(!?!?!?!?!?!?!?). Double unfortunately, said photos were lost. After many many (many many many) attempts at retrieving them, we ended up with the first and last photo of the roll, and then 30 photos of a nice looking African American family at a picnic. We had a lot of questions, but very few answers. As such, I will be taking you through the visuals of our eleven-course meal in a…slightly unorthodox way, with only our menu and a five-month-old memory as my guide.
First up was a milk punch and some fancy little cocktail snacks. A little wagyu beef on a tart. Some red onion gel thingy. Escargot with some herbs? Some tasty, fancy bites. The thing I remember most is the milk punch. Not so much how it tasted, but how it was prepared in front of our eyes. Our server essentially tossed a bunch of booze and herbs in a test tube, put it over a bunson burner, and then we watched as the liquor was magically sucked up into a different test tube. The drink was warm and herby and confusing. There rest of the drink pairings for the meal were a sequence of fantastic wines. I don’t remember the wines now. I definitely still remember this drink.
Next up was a scallop dish. It basically looked like a ratatouille, but instead of a bunch of alternating squashes, it was alternating scallop, mushroom, and radish slices. I know that sounds absolutely terrible, but it was absolutely not. It was delicate as hell, and we were scooping out the dregs of the mushroom sauce with a spoon until a server took everything away.
You’ll notice I said “a server” because what Pineapple and Pearls had down pat more than anything is teamwork. We probably had eight different people bring us food, drinks, silverware, etc. during the course of the evening. Always timed perfectly. Never felt rushed or cramped. It was pretty awesome. Basically the 2014-2015 Golden State Warriors of sharing responsibilities.
The third course was a Southern inspired dish, monkfish with Carolina yellow rice and mussels. There was a lot going on, but all the spice and citrus and fishiness married up pretty well. This dish was also extremely hearty and dense in the best way. Warmed up the soul.
Going in a completely different direction, the staff brought out a foie gras custard with shiitake mushrooms and bonito flakes. Bonito flakes are something I had seen in Japanese cooking before but never knew what it was. I always just thought of it in my head as little fishy pieces of paper and moved around on the plate. Apparently that’s exactly what they are. The best thing about this custard is that it was rich without tasting like liver. Couldn’t have asked for anything more.
In the middle of the meal was what they called “the bread course”, which was kinda weird. The carb of the evening was actually homemade tortillas and two types of mole (one light, one dark). The dark mole was made with huitlacoche (FDC’s favorite mutant corn!) and the light was made with vinegar and orange. It was legitimately tasty, but at the end of the day when someone promises me bread, I want…bread. A little too cute, P&P.
Next was the smoked beef tongue. It was the tiniest piece of beef on the tiniest grill then placed on the regularest sized piece of basil. It was good but we wished there was more of it. Also I think somewhere in the middle here we were served a tiny fancy corn dog.
Course #7 or 8 (aka the one I am talking about now) was probably my favorite. Grilled striploin with an orange/endive/bread crumb salad thing and some fresh parker rolls (great service on their part – they divined my need for real bread!). It felt like the best possible version of the 1950s steak n’ veggies meal, especially because it was served on that really dated bumpy green type of plate (something like this). The rolls were great for sopping up all the green peppercorn gravy. It was really fun to eat.
After that the meal started to wind down into dessert. First was a grapefruit sorbet with a bunch of booze and candied grapefruit rind pieces in it. I really had no idea what was happening but it made my tum tum feel good. There was also, according to our menu, a butternut squash ice cream cake that I have absolutely no memory of. The check came with one final little surprise, a carmel dipped gooseberry and a chocolate/pepper/honey bon bon. Some truly excellent treats to end on, especially that gooseberry. It was the type of sweet that has you licking your lips for a few minutes and also sure your dentist will be giving you a new filling next time around.
So you’d think after all of that we would be rolling out of that place. And we really really pretended for a minute that was the case. Kate was being the gracious gift recipient she always is and I wanted this to be a perfect memory. About halfway home, however, we both looked each other in the eye and knew the truth: we were definitely still hungry. At the end of the day, we had an extremely delicious meal, but in my mind a once-in-life-time experience shouldn’t need to be supplemented with chicken fingers from the bar up the street. But maybe we’re just fatties. As such, as a whole experience I give Pineapple and Pearls 3.5 out of 4 om noms. Can’t give the maximum amount of noms if the nom tank wasn’t full.