Thursday, October 22, 2015

Arlington: New Dishes and a Taste of California Pizza Kitchen

I was recently invited to the California Pizza Kitchen in Pentagon City to try the fall menu and see this locations transformation into "The Next Chapter." The emphasis is on utilizing in season ingredients that are locally sourced when possible as well as changing the interior to be aesthetically pleasing, having a light, airy, California kind of look. CPK wants to move away from the chain look, so no two restaurants will look the same.

What is funny about this dinner is that most of the dishes I tried all had components that I am not a huge fan of...mushrooms, butternut squash and blue cheese. Even with those additions to the dishes, I really enjoyed everything I tried. It just goes to show you that you should go outside of your box sometimes - things could be prepared a different way and you might actually like it! 

CPK boasts a wonderful cocktail menu, in fact I dedicated a separate post to them because they are that delicious. You just need to pick your poison and then select a cocktail that contains it, you can't go wrong. My favorite was the California Dream Roots (made with avocado...sounds weird but super delicious).
To start off our meal we had the Brussels + Bacon Flatbread and the Harvest Kale Salad

Oh this flat bread - there really isn't more to say other than caramelized onions and bacon. Throw on some crispy brussels and a little cheese and you have a magical dish. 

There were a lot of different textures of the salad but they all blended together nicely. The tanginess of the goat cheese brought all the different components together and I really loved the freshness and variety of the flavors. If you are trying to be healthy - I recommend getting this salad and adding on some protein (chicken, shrimp or salmon).
I got to sample two of their pizzas - Mushroom, Pepperoni and Sausage Pizza cremini mushrooms, rustic pepperoni, spicy italian sausage, mozzarella and wild oregano and Wild Mushroom Pizza shaved cremini, shitake, portabella and white mushrooms with slivered scallions, cracked black pepper, pecorino romano and mozzarella, finished with parmesan + the optional white truffle oil

This is where I started to get really nervous at the dinner...both pizzas had mushrooms - but like a good food blogger, I tried them and found out when mushrooms are shaved, I don't mind the texture as much. I really liked the Mushroom, Pepperoni and Sausage Pizza. The spices in the pepperoni and sausage were amazing (they cure their own pepperoni, and then its shaved and torn onto the pizza-well worth it) - with a finish of wild oregano which really takes it up a notch. 

The Wild Mushroom Pizza had great flavor - and an added freshness with the spring onions. If you are a mushroom lover, then this is your pizza - with four different types, they are packed on. The addition of truffle oil is necessary, I just love its aroma. 

On a side note - both pizzas tasted good reheated in the toaster oven for breakfast the next morning - winning! 
In all the years I have been coming here, I have never looked past the pizza and salad menu (BBQ chicken pizza has my heart). It is now time to start looking past pizza (it pains me to say) and try some of their entrees. Hearth Roasted Halibut Wild caught halibut roasted on a cedar plank with grilled asparagus and butternut squash farro & baby kale and Fire-Grilled Ribeye 12oz USDA choice ribeye grilled with housemade Pinot Noir salt and topped with creamy bleu cheese butter, served with roasted fingerling potatoes and lemon-garlic arugula salad were the two I got to try. 

The halibut was cooked well, and I really liked the Parmesan, paprika farro. There were no overpowering flavors, everything blended well together. This was a favorite dish of one of my friends. 

I am a meat and potatoes kinda gal and have gotten really into compound butters lately so this dish was right up my ally. The steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare and the tang from the blue cheese was just enough for me. I brought the leftovers to my friends and they thought that butter could have used more flavor. We all agreed that the potatoes were amazing, perfectly cooked and the seasoning was on point. 
Salted Caramel Pudding rich caramel pudding, black cocoa cookie crumbs, housemade whipped cream, caramel sauce and natural flaked sea salt. It's not often you see pudding on a dessert menu but wow, am I glad they added this. The combination of flavors (sweet, salty, rich) and textures (smooth, crunchy, whipped (fluffy) and light) made this an extremely decadent and swoon worthy treat. I actually took one of the home because I liked it so much and two of the guys I shared it with later ate it up. <I just checked out their website….the have a s'mores pudding jar….must try in the very near future>
Butter Cake - I really enjoyed the flavors and textures of this cake. There was a layer of caramelized sugar on the outside which added a nice, sweet crunch to the cake. 
Now for the reallyyyy exciting part...I learned how to toss pizza dough and was taught by BRIAN. Yes, yes...I know, I should quit my day job and go into pizza making.  
Basically, the bottom line is you need to get yourself into CPK soon and try one of their new fall items. Some of Brian's favorites are the Jamaican Pizza or the Kung Pao spaghetti...which are now on my list to try very soon. 

Another important thing to note is that CPK wants you to try new items. They have a policy set where you can order something new...and if you don't like it, they will replace it with your usual. It doesn't get much better then that! 

1201 South Hayes Street
Arlington, VA
Metro: Pentagon City 
California Pizza Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Thirsty Thursday: Cocktails and Happy Hour at California Pizza Kitchen

When you think of California Pizza Kitchen fancy/craft cocktails aren't on the mind, only delicious and innovative pizzas.  I recently had a chance to sit down with the SVP of culinary development/head chef Brian Sullivan to try some of the fall items (review coming soon) as well as the cocktails and I couldn't have been more impressed. Every drink that I tried was exciting and never left that sugary gross feeling that you often get from cocktails. I was especially pleased to learn that their cocktails that involve fruit all have FRESH fruit puree - nothing bottled/jarred, which is really apparent when you drink them. 

California Pizza Kitchen Happy Hour
"Let's Get Happy"
Monday-Thursday at the bar 3pm-6pm & 8:30-close
$4 Draft Beer - Sam Adams & Blue Moon
$4 Bottles Beer - Stella, Corona Extra, New Castle
$5 Wines by the glass (3 whites & 3 reds)
$5 Premium Well Drinks
$6 Fresh Agave Lime Margarita
$6 Hand Shaken Agave Mojito

I'm going to start with my favorite (and Brian's fav too!), the California Roots svedka vodka, fresh avocado and mint, fresh agave sour, fennel salt rim. This drink is an original CPK creation and one of a kind until someone knocks it off. At first I was hesitant of a drink made with avocado but I was pleasantly surprised. Normally I am not a huge fan of licorice flavor (fennel seed) but it paired nicely. It was creamy, light and fresh. 
CPK offers a seasonal sangria, and luckily as it was only a week or so away from fall when I did the tasting, I got to try the summer and fall sangria's. Fall's Sangria is a Blood Orange Sangria, using fresh blood orange puree. This was fresh and not overly sweet which I find that some white sangria's can be - another one of my favorites. The summer sangria, Seasonal Harvest was also quite tasty - I liked the addition of grapes! 
Blueberry Ginger Smash Jack Daniels Whiskey, agave nectar, domaine de canton ginger, fresh blueberries and lime, cranberry juice. You can't go wrong with whiskey, and I like the fruity change from what I normally mix it with - coke or ginger-ale.  
The Executive Decision tequila blanco, muddled mint, agave sour, agave nectar, lime - created by the CEO of CPK, and what I think to refer to as a minty margarita. This drink is refreshing and light. 
This baby will knock you off your feet if you are not careful, The California Crush boasts Absolut Mandrin, Absolut Citron, muddled mint with fresh orange and lemon. Mostly vodka, this drink is delightfully fresh and citrus - the citrus masks the taste of vodka. I could see myself going though more then a few of these and getting into trouble. 
The Coconut Blossom Mandarin Blossom Vodka Casamigos Tequila Blanco, agave sour, pureed coconut, fresh pineapple is a pleasant spin on a pina colada ...switching it up a little with the addition of tequila and vodka. A drink that transports you to a tropical island that won't kill you with the sugar. 
Basically, next time you are in the mood for drinks...and I mean more then your typical jack and coke (which they have if that is what your heart desires), you only need to head to California Pizza Kitchen - no more traveling to some fancy pants place in DC. Plus - you can get some great noms to have with your cocktails aka delicious pizza! 

1201 South Hayes Street
Suite F
Arlington, VA
California Pizza Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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