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Reservations Recommended

La Fourchette: 36 Years and Counting

Restaurants open and close in DC with alarming regularity — and in these hard times, we should celebrate the longevity of a place like Adams Morgan’s La Fourchette. Its up-front banner proclaims its 36th year in business. And stopping by to enjoy an omelette or something sturdier, such as the crock of French onion soup or a bowl of mussels, is one way to thank the owners — a husband and wife team who have fed us well for these many years — for sticking to the basics: Fine ingredients simply prepared.

Doing a Google search yields several important facts: Besides having more than 29,000 entries, the restaurant’s brunch, say some of the postings, is a don’t-miss experience. Stopping by on New Year’s Day — a worthy way to begin 2009 — showed that plenty agree with the Google posters: Even when folks can claim hangovers and stay home, the tables were filling up fast by noon.

The draw, of course, is its homey weekend and holiday brunch menu, a mix of poached eggs, crêpes, and omelettes, all with a French twist, as well as some more Americanized faves, such as French toast (using a baguette), a short stack of pancakes, chicken sausages with mashed potatoes, and steak and eggs, for the he-man of the group.

If part of your new year’s resolutions includes losing a couple of pounds, you’ll have to pick and choose carefully among the brunch menu’s choices, for each dish carries the real possibility of hidden calories, lurking in the béarnaise sauce with one of the poached eggs options, or the seafood crêpe with its white cream sauce.

But it’s the weekend (or was New Years Day), so why not splurge a little? Order the Blackston, a dish of poached eggs with thick-sliced tomatoes (oops, they forgot the bacon; but that means fewer fat grams to wrestle with) with a hollandaise, and we all know how rich that is. But here’s the trick: eat the eggs, slice up the tomatoes, and if you dare, mop up the sauce with some of the baguette on the side. Alas, the bread disappoints; it’s not a thick, chewy, crusty bistro-style bread but a crumbly and soulless baked good.

If you come alone, bring along the weekend paper or discreetly people-watch. The crowd is basically the 20- or 30-somethings wrapped in earnest conversations; other mealtimes you may find an intergenerational gathering, like folks from the neighborhood who know a good thing or two and drop in to enjoy it.

No meal here would satisfy without dessert, and the selections come to your table on a tray. The old-fashion delight, the floating island, will inspire warm memories of comfort food if you are of a certain age. It’s a simple concoction of a delicate meringue floating in a pool of crème anglaise and finding this classic speaks well for the owners’ determination to keep their food from becoming trendy. But maybe you’ll find the apple tarte tatin more to your liking, which is really an inverted apple pie with a caramel undertone and a hint of spicing.

If you Google La Fourchette, you may find that not everyone who has posted their opinions are bowled over by the place, and with every restaurant, of course, the kitchen may have some missteps. But all would certainly agree that this old-timer is reminiscent of a kinder and gentler Washington, when neighborhood restaurants comprised the dining scene. Now every place seems so high-tech and, well, presumptuous, that finding La Fourchette is rather refreshing.

La Fourchette / 2429 18th St., NW; (202) 332-3077. Hours: Mon.-Thu., 11:30am-10:30pm; Fri., to 11:30pm. Weekend brunch: Sat., 11am-3pm & dinner following to 11:30pm; Sun. to 11pm. Brunch price range: $5.50-$11.95. Major credit cards.

Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, editor, and restaurant reviewer. She has authored books on Asian and Mexican cuisines published by Simon & Schuster, Doubleday, and Macmillan. Other credits include restaurant reviews and food articles for national and regional publications, as well as former editor of the Vegetarian Times and former food editor/writer for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. Click here to visit her website.