Grilled Oysters with Chipotle Tarragon Butter and Gremolata are a fun and flavorful summer treat!
I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of really fun, cool things since I began my food blog but there hasn’t been a ton of travel blogging. It’s an idea I’ve thought about on and off over the years because traveling is my other big obsession after food. If I could afford to travel more often, I definitely would. But it has been difficult since changing career paths. Not only is money a bit more tight than it used to be but when I go on vacation, I’m not earning a living. It’s the main downside to being self employed, as far as I’m concerned.
When I was first contacted last year about spending a weekend at The Melrose Georgetown Hotel and dining at their restaurant Jardenea, I was caught off guard. DC is filled with restaurant bloggers and reviewers but I’m not technically one of them. I come up with recipes and I take pictures of food. Was it ok to switch things up?
I realized that not only did it make complete sense but I deserved a break and this was the perfect opportunity. I’ve had a really intense year and a staycation in DC with Jeff sounded amazing. I eagerly agreed and we were given a gorgeous suite to celebrate our anniversary. I also decided to recreate one of the appetizers I enjoyed at the restaurant so the review wouldn’t feel too out of place with what I normally do. In summary: I had a really amazing weekend, the restaurant dinner was wonderful and I’m loving these grilled oysters. The recipe is below my review.
The Melrose Georgetown Hotel has a very modern boutique feel to it, and you can sense the attention to detail from the moment you walk through the front door. Whoever decorated the hotel did a great job; everything from the lobby to the conference rooms and gym is clean, colorful and cozy. The hotel is located just a couple blocks away from the Foggy Bottom metro which is very convenient for touring the city, and it’s also a short cab ride from Reagan National Airport. Everyone on the staff who I spoke with was friendly and attentive.
The suites are lovely and two things in particular really stood out to me. For starters, we were right off Pennsylvania Avenue (you know, the street that The White House is on) and I could barely hear any noise. The sound proofing at the hotel is really top notch and because I’m such a light sleeper, this is very important. The second thing that stood out to me was the bed; it was very comfortable and supportive. Everything else in the suite was reminiscent of the rest of the hotel: sleek, comfortable and well designed.
After a long day of playing tourists in DC and doing so many of the things we always say we’re going to do but never get around to, Jeff and I were starving. We had a wonderful dinner at Jardenea and I was very impressed with the food. The flavors were strong and well balanced, and Chef Nate Lindsay’s farm-to-table mission was clear in almost every dish on the menu. I really enjoyed everything I tried from the bread basket through dessert.
I ordered the Chesapeake Bay crab bisque for an appetizer, followed by the grass fed beef with white truffle dauphinoise potatoes, haricot vert beans and shallot demi-glace. Jeff ordered the pork belly “BLT” with arugula pesto and fried green tomato for an appetizer, followed by the coriander dusted Hawaiian sea bass with blue corn grits. We also shared grilled Barren Island oysters with chipotle-tarragon butter and lemon gremolata, which is obviously the inspiration for my recipe. For dessert, we had Jardenea’s toasted s’mores with chocolate mousse, ginger graham crackers and a toasted marshmallow.
Everything was fantastic but for me the clear standouts were the crab bisque, the grass fed beef and the blue corn grits. They were All. So. Good. The crab bisque especially caught my attention because there was a technique used which I’ve never seen before. Have you ever had steamed blue crabs? I was born in Maryland and grew up with them. There’s yellow roe when you break open the crabs and when I was growing up the adults in my family used to tell me it was the “mustard.” The roe is actually delicious and it was used as a thickener in this bisque for a rich, unique twist. I live for this sort of kitchen creativity and I would go back to Jardenea for this soup alone. I was originally going to try and recreate it for the blog but I decided the grilled oysters would be more of a crowd pleaser. I’m not sure how many of you would actually be up for thickening bisque with roe. I’m hoping to try it one of these days.
I would absolutely recommend this hotel to out of town visitors and Jardenea to anyone looking for high quality, bold, local cuisine. It was a perfect anniversary dinner.
Grilled Oysters with Chipotle-Tarragon Butter and Gremolata
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon canned chipotle chilies in adobo, patted dry and minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 2 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest, grated
- 1 medium garlic clove, minced or grated
- 12 raw oysters, scrubbed clean
- In a medium sized bowl, combine the butter, chipotle chiles, tarragon and salt, using a spatula to press the ingredients together until evenly blended. Place the butter in the refrigerator to firm back up while preparing the other ingredients.
- In a separate small bowl, prepare the gremolata by combining the parsley, lemon zest and garlic. Set aside.
- Preheat a grill on medium high. While the grill is heating up, shuck the oysters, being careful to avoid getting grit in the shell. Discard the flat side of the shell, leaving the oysters in the rounded cup side. Line up the oysters on a baking sheet.
- Top each oyster with approximately 1/2 - 1 tablespoon of the chipotle-tarragon butter. The exact amount will depend on the size of the oyster and shell.
- Carefully place each oyster directly on the grill and close the lid. Cook for 3-4 minutes (note: it’s better to undercook than overcook the oysters. The idea here is to let them fry for a bit in the butter and get a smokey flavor from the grill).
- Use tongs to very carefully remove the oysters from the grill and place back on the baking sheet. Depending on the shape of the shells, hot butter will likely spill from a couple of them (but the flavors will stay!)
- Sprinkle a small amount of the gremolata over each oyster and serve immediately.
Please read my full post for additional recipe notes, tips, and serving suggestions!
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Disclaimer: I was given a free suite for two nights at the Melrose Georgetown Hotel as well as a free dinner for two at Jardenea. As always, all opinions are my own!