Hot off “The Press”

By Robin Swanson

As someone who deals with “the press” every day of my life, you might think that kicking back at a restaurant by the same name might not be my first choice, but you’d be wrong when it comes to “The Press” on 18th and Capitol, opened by David English, former Executive Chef of Ella.  This restaurant’s namesake actually refers to an olive press, with olive oil as a featured ingredient in many of their delectable dishes.

Like many other frenetic girls on the grid, it’s not every day that I want to sit down for a full-on meal at a restaurant – and given that my self-imposed wedding-dress-diet doesn’t have much wiggle-room for a calorie-busting feast, I found the tapas and appetizers featured here to be a nice option.   I’ll save the comprehensive restaurant review of The Press for someone with more time and caloric-flexibility, but here’s my run-down for girls-on-the-go who are looking for a cool, casual place to kick up your strappy-sandals without busting the budget.

The tapas, at 3 for $10, is a steal for those of us who like to nibble our way through happy hour.  The current tapas options are: potato croquettes, eggplant caponata, heirloom tomato with fresh mozzarella, garlic dip with grilled pita, fried meat balls with garlic yogurt sauce, marinated olives and watermelon with feta and mint.    My partner-in-crime for this outing was Beth Miller, a “Press” aficionado  (in so many ways…), who gives her foodie seal of approval to the zesty meat balls.

I enjoyed the “special” appetizer offered for the evening – shrimp cooked in a buttery garlic olive oil – a generous portion of 6-7 shrimp – perfecting for sharing.  The dish that knocked my peep-toes off, however, was the Risotto of Summer Zucchini, corn, cherry tomato and herbs.   Channeling the chemistry of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, I don’t know why white corn and risotto have ever spent any time apart – the sweet crunch of the corn mixed with savory flavor of the risotto are clearly MFOE (yes, made for each other…)  A small plate of this divine creation is also more than enough for two if you’re into sampling and sharing dishes.

All the while, we were sipping on some inventive cocktails and gabbing at the elongated oak bar table that seats about 20 people and defines the social nature of this restaurant.

The most interesting cocktail of the bunch has to be the “Salt and Pepper,” a drink that needs to be sipped and savored, and like the fickle creature that it is, it’s allowed to change its mind along the way.  The drink is made of gin, grapefruit, lemon, bitters and rosemary – and upon the first sip, you can taste each and every one of the flavors, but by the time you reach the bottom of the glass, it all seems to have melded into one fluid cocktail.

Other standard favorites are the Italian Lemonade, a good fruity-vodka standard, and the Calvino, which tastes like a refreshing lemon margarita, without the syrupy sweetness.

Beth, as I mentioned above, has frequented The Press more than I have, and says that the entrees are also worth a try.  She gives the seared scallops with bacon, tomato, arugula and butter sauce two enthusiastic thumbs up, and says that the chicken parmesan with heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella is a nice, light, seasonal dish with clean flavors.

The casual and contemporary vibe of The Press, combined with its top-notch and friendly service, will no doubt keep me coming back for more exploration – next time probably for a glass of wine from what looks like a pretty varied selection from California, France, Spain and Italy.

I have high hopes that this restaurant, unlike its predecessor in the same location, Dragonfly, has enough charm and appeal to draw a crowd that is interested in a more low-key vibe.

Situated next to its more gregarious next-door-neighbor, Zocolo, this restaurant offers a different scene that’s more my personal preference, and will likely attract others, as well.

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