What he’s having: Lockdown dining options from Tia Mica’s Sugar Love, Barada and Zing
A weekly notebook about dining options during the Covid-19 shutdown, with a focus on quality and ease of pickup and delivery. Remember, the people serving up the food are part of the front line; keep it in mind when tipping.
You can’t yet get a steamy cup of joe in a handmade ceramic cup, but you can get Zing’s classic spring rolls, filled with silken tofu and perfectly pliable vermicelli and accented by a side of peanut sauce with a slight (ahem) zing! Available for pickup only on Tuesdays (“Fresh Roll Tuesdays”); place your order via Zing’s Facebook page, where managers post Eventbrite links. The rolls travel well, but are best consumed fresh. The 10-pack is a perfect quick lunch for two to four people. On a day I thought I’d do three for lunch, the generous proportions of that addictive peanut sauce turned that threefer into a five-roll binge. Dare I confess what I was doing for an afternoon snack?
The family-owned and run Lebanese restaurant way up Massachusetts Avenue is open for delivery and takeout. The days for service vary, but they’re generally focused around the weekend. What to have? The hummus is a must – something of a game-changer, rich, creamy and thick with just the right amount of lemon and zest to add a little tang in your mouth without detracting from the main event. The pita that accompanies it is so fresh and soft it defies words. Other good choices are the kibbeh and chicken kabobs. The long-grain wild rice bed they come served on is moist and savory, a winner in its own right. The other thing on the menu calling to me are the grape leaves. Next time!
Season to Go
Also out toward the Arlington end of Massachusetts Avenue is Robert Harris’ morphing Season to Taste empire, which sadly just shuttered its James Beard-nominated Table at Season to Taste restaurant. But up pops Season to Go, good eats to pick up or have delivered. Best bets are the burger and ever-evolving pasta dishes. Harris’ philosophy is to cook seasonal and local, though the fall-off-the-bone ribs are a favorite of the chef. I recently did the Mothers’ Day Brunch offering: The quiche had chunks of asparagus in it that, while just a notch under al dente, exploded with fresh, just-picked zip; my daughter had a blast with the decorate-it-yourself cookie platter; the veggie sausage patties were hearty and filling (a little maple syrup is a nice addition); and the smoked salmon platter, replete with caper, onions and toast points, featured some of the thickest, yet creamy and smooth whipped cream cheese I can recall. The meals are packaged expertly for travel.
Tia Mica’s Sugar Love
Micaela Yang’s homemade confections are pieces of frosted art – go to her website and be prepared to be blown away – and in challenging times you can find her not just baking, but livestreaming a cookie decorating party for kids one day and making and giving away Covid-19 masks to the needy another. I was fortunate enough to try a sampling of the finger cakes, and in all the nibbles, you can feel the love, but never an overdose of sugar like the kind that sends me running. I’m still on my heels from the strawberry shortcake. How can something so simple be so all-consumingly delicious? The cake layers were still spongy and moist on day two, and the whipped cream was plump, airy and creamy (but not sugary), blending perfectly with pleasingly firm berries that were ripe, red and juicy. These was something of a lemon coconut cake in the box, and while you could taste the lemon zest clearly, the culmination of it with coconut, whipped cream filling and drizzles of other ingredients made for a sweet symphony of flavors.
Tia Mica’s Sugar Love (Huron Avenue, Strawberry Hill)
The big brick pizza oven is open, even if the bowling alley around it isn’t. And though you can’t see it or the skilled dough tossers normally putting on something of a show, you can get the results: large, thin-crusted pies crowned with organic ingredients and just a touch of wood-fired smokiness. My daughter’s a white-pizza freak, and her absolute favorite is the sauceless cheese and herb, with just the right dose of EVOO. The pepperoni and mushroom is another pleaser; when I’m doing carne, I sometimes add sausage. Don’t forget the salads, which are organic and exceptionally fresh; make it extra yummy with a crumble of goat cheese. Order online and pick up in a well managed, social distanced queue.