Review: Blue Duck Tavern

I have had the most amazing weekend, it came at just the right time.

Because lately I have felt like I don’t trust any decision I make. I hate second-guessing myself. I have also been super paranoid about mundane things. (Double-checking that I lock doors after already walking away, thinking I left the stove on when I didn’t, worrying I lost my keys/wallet/ipod/phone when really they are just tucked somewhere in my bag.) Consequently, I have been doing really ditsy things. The other day, I sent an email in which I typed my home address incorrectly, like not just a typo, but wrong. What in the heck?

This weekend was just what I needed and I owe it all to some great people, delicious food, and oh-so-what-I-needed yoga. (I don’t know WHY I ever stop going to yoga…it is one of the only things that really keeps me in line.) I already talked all about my experience at the food sustainability panel Friday. And I will fill you in on my new yogi experiences on Thursday–I am doing a sampling of a few new studios in the area and plan to write my last health column on it. That’s…such a sad thought. My last column? Forever?)

Blue Duck Tavern

So Friday night, Joe and I tried Blue Duck Tavern (“it’s quacktastic!”), a country-chic style sustainably-sourced restaurant in the West End that is well known for its local, fresh fare (not everything on the menu is local, but it does tell you exactly which farm everything came from, which is much more than most can say.) Their restaurant is pretty upscale, but their menu is set up “family style” so you choose your meats, veggies, grains, and then the expectation is that you share dishes, some of which are designed for 2-3 people.

So for an appetizer, he ordered “oven roasted bone marrow with a sea urchin crust and country bread.” I have never seen something so strange in my entire life. Apparently, it’s a delicacy. You spread the bone marrow on the bread and that is how you eat it. The one saving grace that prevents me from being grossed out by this is that it’s from a small farm in Pennsylvania, so you know the cow lived a happy, normal life and was slaughtered in as humane a way as possible, hopefully. At this point in dinner, I brought up how I had recently started reading, Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Joe’s response was, “I love animals so much, I just want to eat them.” Sigh.

OK. Now, complaint number one of few at Blue Duck is that their menu uses a lot of meat. A meat-eater would never notice this or point it out, but it’s really true. All the salads listed and many of the vegetable dishes, had meat in them, and at a fancy place like this (while they did later accommodate my request to not have bacon in the dandelion dish) I just didn’t even want to request changes to, because then you are messing with the dish, which has been specifically designed to have certain flavors that rely on the meat. So the waiter suggested the butterhead lettuce with yoghurt dressing, and I love butterhead lettuce so I went with that. Now, I will just say that I had one delicious bite of the dish that proved it really did taste great, however, see how they present the lettuce in the little heads like that? Complaint number 2 – I think either someone screwed up and didn’t rinse the leaves, or they can’t really get into the lettuce head to wash the dirt/grit off. Because all I could think about was the grittiness it left on my teeth. Not a good way to start off a meal. I told the waiter (very tactfully, might I add), turned down his offer for something different, and he reported back the chef’s apologies and offer for free dessert. They were nice enough, but that was definitely a damper on my appetite.

However, they did an excellent job making up for it later.

Next, he got the the braised beef rib with homemade steak sauce and loved it.

I debated on what to order, and then got the swordfish. It tasted great, mind you…but why am I so awful at ordering the right seafood? OK, in my defense, I had picked out what I wanted online, according to sustainability and health guidelines, but since the menu was different once we got there, I had to think on my feet. I was under the impression swordfish but one of the better types of fish to order but…complaint #3, apparently it’s full of mercury, and imported (well, I knew it was imported because it said Hawaii on the menu–although that’s not exactly “imported”, since it’s still in the country…hmm…off on a technicality?). Anyhow, it isn’t listed on FWW’s magnet guide at all, so I thought I was safe for a second, and according to EDF’s seafood selector, “Although the U.S. has imposed strict regulations in the Pacific to reduce bycatch of endangered sea turtles, foreign fleets are not subject to these restrictions, and there is no international management for swordfish in the Pacific.” So, my swordfish, being U.S.-caught, was likely ‘humanely’ caught, but now I can’t have children. I guess I just always feel like places like this are going to offer only the seafood that is BEST, but I suppose they value taste above all. I am actually thinking of going back to being a vegetarian, for reasons such as, the only time I ever eat seafood is when I’m in a nice restaurant, and if even nice restaurants have not-so-nice seafood, maybe I shouldn’t bother?

Anyhow, the dandelion greens were great, and the mushroom polenta was AH-mazing. Mouthwatering good.

Then we ordered the apple pie. I had heard their apple pie was fantastic and it really was. It was also huge and between the two of us we didn’t even finish half.

Wrap-up review

  • B for taste. It’s unfortunate, because I really thought everything else was impeccable but I have to dock them points for the gritty salad. It wasn’t even a taste issue really, just poor food handling, which in my opinion is less excusable than simply me not liking a particular flavor I had never tried or whatever.
  • New category—Selection/variety/veg-friendliness: B-. I think this is an important factor I didn’t consider before. Restaurants nowadays need to offer more vegetarian selections. Even though I am personally not following a vegetarian diet right now, I have been in those shoes, and it’s really sort of embarrassing to have to make special requests.
  • A+ for atmosphere. The restaurant itself was perfectly lit, had a nice chatter but not too loud, was very chic and modern. The waiter was friendly and accommodating, and gave great wine advice.
  • It’s hard to judge value here. The place is pricey, but you’re also paying for the ambience, the freshest ingredients, the chef, the innovative menu, and other things–so really it depends on what you’re after, and if you value great tasting meat, this may be for you. What I will say is that vegetarians may not love it. And you might want to ask how large certain dishes are before you order or how many people they will feed, because I found that to be sort of erratic and it’s just hard to know when it’s “family-style” dining. Case in point, the apple pie could easily be split among 4 people who just want, say, 4-5 bites of apple pie.
  • B- for their sustainability/eco-friendliness because of the swordfish thing and the fact that only about half of farms listed were remotely nearby. They list all the farms that source their foods, whether or not they are local, which is nice to know and shows they care and are being transparent.

How do you handle sending dishes back at restaurants? Do you speak up or keep quiet when something is off?

One response to this post.

  1. Dude, I get so confused when I eat seafood. I usually just go with whatever’s wild caught, but then there are so many other issues to contend with. I need to educate myself better on it.

    I’m in no way a picky-eater, so I rarely send dishes back at restaurants. When I was a vegetarian I did whenever they accidentally forgot to take the meat off my salad or something like that, and my boyfriend has a lot of food allergies so he has to kind of often. I find that as long as you’re nice about it, and show that you’re just trying to get a new dish and don’t want to penalize them for the mistake, it goes off without a hitch.


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