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Top 5 Tastes: Getting Ready to MeAt Fall

09/19/2013 05:00 pm ET | Updated Nov 19, 2013

It's almost sort of close to feeling like fall, so naturally I'm chowing down on animal products of all kinds, whether in soup, sandwich or shell form. My jaunts to D.C. have been (and will continue to be) quite regular, and I'm loving the city's burgeoning hip food scene.

1. Roasted Muscovy Duck Breast, Crispy Leg Confit, Cherry Compote - Blue Duck Tavern (Washington, DC)

Gamey meats and fruit preserves go together like Money Mayweather and Justin Bieber, so it was no surprise that I was head-over-heels for my Muscovy duck entrée at Blue Duck Tavern. The delicately browned confit leg and breast arrived in an old school cast-iron casserole over a reduced cherry sauce with a scattering of the plump berries throughout. The slightly funky, rich Umami flavor of the duck was well suited to the sauce, which was tart and tangy, and reminded one of farmhouses and crackling fireplaces. Although I found myself in a food coma after a D.C. weekend of gorging myself (who are we kidding? This happens every weekend), I made sure to finish every last bite.

2. Blue Crab - Cantler's (Annapolis, MD)
I exercise because I love to eat, so when I can pass off the latter as the former, it's a double whammy to end all...whammies. I'm referring, of course, to the immense physical exertion and stamina required in breaking open and consuming blue crabs. The action of cracking a shell with my teeth and then a mallet (and subsequently coming close to surrendering all of my pearly whites), clearly counts as physical exercise, and the deluge of crab juice I encounter is akin to a Gatorade commercial (albeit with less fluorescent liquid.) At Cantlers in Annapolis, I had one of my best workouts to date, and returned home full of luscious crab and reeking of Eau de Shellfish. We used mallets, teeth, and ingenuity to extract the maximum amount of Old Bay-coated blue crab, dunking each piece in butter and vinegar before the inevitable trip straight into the mouth. With the sun shining, and our faces shiny from butter and elbow grease, we continued our gluttonous ways. Why buy a gym membership anyway?

3. Shoyu Ramen - Daikaya (Washington, DC)
After enduring a train ride in which seat partners unwrapped tuna sandwiches and talked of their wildest life dreams, my mood was appropriately salty, and my stomach a gaping hole of infuriation. Luckily, I was whisked off to ramen spot Daikaya for some soul-curing, noodle laden soup and a waterfall of Sapporo and sake (no, we didn't bomb it, you philistine. But maybe we thought about it.) It was a reunion of friends old and new, and the soy-infused Shoyu ramen was sultry and comforting, with plenty of broth-saturated springy noodles. The Roast "Chashu" pork fell apart with only slight fork prodding, the unctuous fat melting into the broth, making it that much richer and meatier. Feeling spicy, I added "menma", or bamboo, to my soup, which was a nice textural counterpoint to the floppy seaweed and the super crunchy bean sprouts. Pork Soup for the Train-Ravaged Soul.

4. Chicken Biscuit - Pies 'N' Thighs (Brooklyn, NY)
The rise in decadent comfort foods of late ensures that certain dishes will fulfill all of your primal, hedonistic desires in one. Culinarily, anyway. Pies N Thighs' Chicken Biscuit does just that providing deep-fried, butter drenched, honey-infused, Buffalo sauced, tender-flakey-biscuited nirvana. After an initial bite seemed not entirely perfect, I dipped the crunchy cutlet-filled sandwich in the pool of honey butter, knowing that condiments can improve almost anything in life. It may have taken me a whole four minutes, but nirvana I reached, with hot sauce all over my face and my hands sticky with buttered honey, or is it honeyed butter? NOMaste.

5. Beef Roll - Outer Borough Stall at Smorgasburg (Brooklyn, NY)
When presented with many enticing options, it is important to be reflective and discerning but also to go with your gut. Life's all about mixed messages, get used to it. After some initial food-flirting at Smorgasburg, I came across the Beef Roll and knew immediately that it had to be mine. This draw was similar, I might imagine, to the animal magnetism that inspired the "Kimye" union, although my moment of attraction resulted in decidedly fewer million-dollar children. Regardless, I knew my decision was correct the moment I bit in--the roll bursting with Hoisin sauce, crunchy vegetables and meat--harkening back to one of my first food loves: Peking duck. The meat was tender, and the pancake thin yet substantial, while the cucumber and scallion ensured that the rich sauce and beef didn't overpower. Outer Boroughs is apparently a new addition to the Smorgasburg brood, and undoubtedly the best thing I encountered all afternoon, except for the hapless hipsters waiting in vain for a ramen burger.