Christmastime brings with it a gaggle of holiday pleasantries, such as time with family, presents under the tree, parties and punch bowls. But one of my favorite aspects of the holidays is time with my friends leading up to the big day. Nothing puts me in the spirit more than creating my own traditions and making the spirit bright with my many wonderful friends in and around DC.
This week, I had the pleasure of being so specially treated to a fun little holiday lunch in Ballston, VA. Now, I have to admit, I haven’t spent too much time in the Ballston area, but I really enjoy it when I am there. It doesn’t quite strike me as a city proper, but it’s a bustling little metropolis with a plethora of dining options, which is (naturally) right up my alley.
On this excursion, I met up with two the finest fellas I know over at Grand Cru Wine Bar and Bistro, a cozy little French Bistro located in the heart of Ballston’s work-a-day district, to kick back and enjoy some delightful food, wine, company and conversation.
I really enjoyed the understated, warm atmosphere of this place right off the bat. It’s very unassuming and reminiscent of sitting on a sidewalk in France adjacent to a true artisan cafe. The restaurant also offers up a small, yet impressive wine selection for purchase, but speaks to their love of wine. The staff was very helpful and knowledgeable about their selections, which made it a pleasure to taste test.
As we deliberated over our meal choices, there were many authentic menu options that I had my eye on, making it a bit difficult to choose which would be the winner. The only thing I was certain of was that my meal would somehow incorporate the French onion soup. I consider myself quite the connoisseur of French onion soup, testing and tasting it at establishments across my travels from state-to-state…from gourmet restaurants to dive diners in search of the perfected bowl of fragrant, onion-y goodness. You just never know where you are going to find that golden goose.
Well, let me just say that my lunch treat turned into about the best Christmas present I could have gotten this year. You can call off the dogs, cause my search has come to an end. This is the best French onion soup I have tasted.
The first taste made me think back to the movie “The Fugitive,” where Tommy Lee Jones’s character tirelessly hunts down Harrison Ford’s character, the cunning and elusive law breaker. Though Tommy Lee cursed and toiled his way through the torturous task of finding and capturing his fugitive, he makes friends with said enemy and takes solice in their friendship in the end.
Same goes for me, chasing after the pinnacle of French onion soup, across states, under a few rocks, and looking in even the most unexpected places. For years I have chased the perfect bowl, often evaded, frequently disappointed, cleverly duped by imitators masquerading as the real thing.
Well, I can’t tell you enough that if you are as big a fan as I am of soup of the onion and cheese variety, Grand Cru is a must. I ordered the soup and sandwich combo with accompanying sammie crafted from zesty roasted ham and cheese creation served up on a delicious sliced sourdough bread.
My lunch cronies ordered two other menu options that I had been eying, much to my delight, so I had the pleasure of trying both the macaroni and cheese, made with white cheddar and Gruyere cheese, layered with crunchy little tendrils of house-made, smoked bacon, as well as a savory mushroom and chicken crepe that perfectly blended together tender bits of chicken, creamy goat cheese and a flavorful thyme sauce in a tasty little folded crepe papoose.
The restaurant also has an Executive Lunch special that serves up your choice of any soup or salad as a starter, any crepe or sandwich as an entree, and a taste of the Chef’s choice of dessert to round out the perfect meal. I recommend you give it a whirl! Oh and…try the soup.