14 April 2010

Matchbox and Caps with a bunch of Donks

While I don't really publicize it that much, I've always been a hockey fan. When I was growing up my favorite player was Pavel Bure so naturally I was a Vancouver Canucks fan. After he retired I really enjoyed watching the amazing lineup of the Detriot Redwings, so I followed them for a number of years. After all of my favorite players on Detroit retired or went to other teams I was kind of in a rut as most of my hockey-watching buddies grew out of the sport, largely due to the 2004-05 Lockout. So I was in the market for a new team and luckily our home team (since Baltimore doesn't have a hockey team) the Washington Capitals had acquired a lot of new young talent and I met a bunch of guys at my new job who were fanatic Caps fans. So we jumped on the first opportunity to go to a game together. I, of course, looked into a place we could pre-game and landed on Matchbox, which was a few short blocks from the Verizon Center. We had some nosebleed seats for the last game of the season hosting the Boston Bruins. But before I get ahead of myself, we must first discuss the food!

Since the game got moved up to a 12 o'clock game we had to move up our plans, so we were there right when the door opened at 10. The website said that they have live jazz during their Sunday brunch but that was not the case on this day. Which was nice. I'm not so sure live mellow jazz would've really melded with 4 testosterone pumped guys pre-gaming for a hockey game. The first thing we noticed was how much we really dug the decor. It reminded me of Chipotle, but in a good way. I really liked the exposed pipe and the unfinished look. The color scheme was right up my alley as well. If I ever opened up my own restaurant I imagine it would have an interior similar to Matchbox. Enough of that, on to the food.

Since my boss noticed that they had Chimay on tap he hasn't been able to shut up about how great it is, so of course when the time came to order our drinks I had to try it to see if it lived up to the hype. The ironic thing is, the Matchbox menu also describes Chimay as "one of the finest beers in the world". Another guy tried the Schneider Aventinus(which I forgot to take a picture of, sorry!). We also ordered the cast iron baked cinnamon rolls.

Was it good? Yes. Was it anything beyond that? No. If someone told me it was any run-of-the-mill wheat beer I wouldnt've batted an eye. I didn't get my expectations up for it but I just didn't see what all the fuss was about. It was just a decent beer, nothing more. On the other hand I really enjoyed the Aventinus. The aroma of banana and clove immediately assailed the senses and had a nice medium body that I like in a beer. It was very balanced and I was much more impressed with it than the Chimay. Just my tastes, I guess. To each his or her own.

The cast iron cinnamon buns were also good but not really much beyond that. I appreciated the fact that they were served with a cream cheese icing versus a straight up sugar based icing, which usually makes cinnamon buns too sweet for me. One thing I would've like was a little contrast in texture.

While they were nice and soft and pulled apart easily, they were uniformly soft and could've really benefited from a little crispness on the outside. Otherwise they were spot on.

I already knew what I want so I didn't even have to look at the menu. After seeing the Bloody Mary burger topped with a fried egg I was sold, but one cannot have such a burger without bacon so I requested it and the waiter happily obliged. Since my first egg-topped burger experience at Hamilton Tavern, I've been kind of obsessed with the concept. Needless to say, I love it. The other orders were the fire & smoke pizza, the spicy meatball pizza, and plate of 3 mini burgers with a heaping pile of fried onions. First up, my burger.

Unfortunately the second I assembled my burger, the yolk burst and ran all over the plate. The thing I love about having a fried egg on a burger is that it adds a fantastic richness that really unifies the components into a nice gooey whole. In this case it added a lovely richness to the plate, not the dish, but the actual plate, and to the pile of greens served alongside the burger, which were delicious by the way. Observe:

So that was very unfortunate. I cut the burger in half to have a look at the requested medium-rare patty. Fortunately, it was cooked perfectly... Well at least it appeared to be.

After eating a few bites I noticed a large part of the patty was completely cooked through, plus the crust was actually pretty tough to bite through. Combine this with the fact that the bottom bun was a tad on the thin side resulted in the burger almost immediately falling apart, which is a huge pet peeve of mine.

I didn't really pick up on what made it a Bloody Mary burger. I did taste a very slight tangy edge that I guess came from the bloody mary mayo, but otherwise it just tasted like a regular burger. The ingredients were fine, it's just the execution that was lacking. Overall, I was slightly disappointed with my meal.

My boss was giving me good-natured crap all meal about my blogging habits so I promised him I would put a picture of his goofy ass up on my blog, and I always follow promises through, booyah:

What a donkey. Speaking of my boss he gave me a slice of his spicy meatball pizza to try. He loved it.

It was very good but it the meatballs contained a spice that I couldn't quite place, I don't think it was the crushed red pepper, but it may have been. It was a conflicting flavor that I didn't really care for. I wish I could explain it better but it just wasn't what I was expecting. And I don't remember tasting any bacon. I guess the meatballs overpowered it.

Luckily I also got to try a piece of the fire & smoke pie, which I thought was excellent. It had a perfect balance of flavors and heat.

A very picturesque pizza, no? Probably the prettiest pizza I've come across, although that is likely to change in the next few days. I liked the fact that the crust had a touch of crispness but was soft throughout. I'm not a fan of cracker-crisp crusts and fortunately that wasn't the case here. This pie also had a bit more char than the meatball and I love me some char. The blackened bits is what I usually call them. And I eat them up. This pizza was everything it was promised to be, smokey, spicy, and very satisfying.

And last but not least, the mini burgers. While I wasn't going to steal one of his burgers, I mean he only had three, and they were tiny at that, I did manage to sample a healthy amount of his mountain of onion straws.

These things were crack-like in their addictiveness. Neither of us care for fried onions, but we just couldn't stop shoving them into our mouths. I was glad I hadn't ordered the mini burgers because I probably would've suffocated and died as I attempted to hoover the entire plate of them into my gut. The funny thing is, I probably could've done it. I imagine it would've looked something like this. The batter reminded me of tempura. Crazy good. And the burgers? He said they were great. Multiple times.

We ordered another round and I had my eye on another of their beers I wanted to try, which was the Founder's Breakfast Imperial Stout but sadly they were out of it. The waiter did offer one of their seasonal brews: the Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale. He compared the flavor profile to Raisinettes and that was all I needed to hear.

It was great. It had a chocolatey, raisiny, and pleasingly burnt finish to it. I also liked this one better than the Chimay. I did sit a little heavy in the stomach but I was a trooper and drained my glass before we headed to the game. I had a slight buzz and was amped to watch the Caps mop up the Bruins.

Unfortunately that wasn't the case. While the game was a great one, and went to the first shootout I've seen live, the Caps lost 4-3. The thing I love about the Verizon Center is that there isn't a bad seat in the house. I got these tickets off of stubhub and after all of the processing and shipping costs we still only paid face value for them. We all loved the view, and even though the Caps lost, we had a great time. Until next time.

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Pizzablogger said...

Which Chimay "She-may" was it...since you mentioned it could be a run of the mill wheat beer, I'm assuming it was the Chimay White, which has a portion of wheat in the grain bill/grist.

I don't think Chimay is the best beer in the world either and it's not even my favorite trappist (Orval is), but it is certainly a beer (particularly the blue) full of subtly intriguing flavors and of high caliber. Me thinks it is better out of the bottle, where the bottle conditioning is much more effective than in a keg. --K

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