December 2008

Welcome to the final Odds and Ends of 2008! Let’s get started…

Are you traveling this week? Touch screens in the JFK JetBlue terminal allow passengers to have food delivered to their gate: 
Actor Jeremy Piven has left Broadway play Speed-the-Plow due to high levels of mercury in his diet. Is this actually possible? Or at least probable? Slate weighs in
Condom found in local Chuck E. Cheese maze deemed “not a safety hazard.” Maybe a judgment hazard – who takes  a condom to Chuck E. Cheese? 
David Boreanaz prefers blonde beers.

In their ongoing efforts to attract diners, restaurants market for kids, local and eco-friendly.

Not wasting any time, Chipotle has introduced sustainable (but still disposable!) cutlery. I wonder if they can also debut sustainable pants for me to wear after I eat one of the 8,000 calorie burritos? (Has anyone else noticed their newly relaunched website? Not only does it have trouble loading all the flash pages, the nutritional info seems awfully buried.)
Red Bull is creating a major snowboard arena in Manhattan to promote its snowboard competition.
Special K kicks off its 2009 diet marketing campaign just before midnight in Times Square on New Years Eve.
Breaking news: chicken broth is part of the gay agenda. Swansons (owned by Campbell’s) found itself fighting off controversy after placing an advertisement in gay magazine The Advocate featuring two lesbian moms and their son enjoying some soup. Conservative watchdog group American Family Association urged Campbell’s to “stop pushing the gay and lesbian agenda.” Because enjoying soup with children is totally anti-family. 
Chef Weidmaier, who brought DC Marcel’s and Brasserie Beck, is opening a new restaurant in Old Town, Alexandria in February called Brabo. (Not to be confused with Babbo). 

Danielle at Brightest Young Things tells us how to infuse vodka at home.  
Check out this creepy bacon item of the week:  

Iraqi intelligence spy ring in Maryland linked to an unnamed restaurant near the NSA. This is reminiscent of the Au Pied de Cochon Russian-spy-window-escape from 1985.

 Snowflake cookies from Whats Cooking America

Snowflake cookies from What's Cooking America

Whether you’re getting ready to celebrate Christmas with a feast of seven fishes (a tradition in my Italian-American family that Dean Gold recreates at Dino), already celebrating Hannukah with latkes like the ones made by Good Stuff Eatery’s Spike Mendelsohn and his mother at the 6th and I Historic Synagogue this past weekend, or preparing to celebrate the sixth night of Kwanzaa with a Karuma meal like the one Top Chef contestant Carla Hall discussed in Vegetarian Times back in 2003, we here at Capital Spice want to wish you a tasty and festive holiday. 

Thanks for reading!

art_of_simple_food_book_jacketAs part of our ongoing effort to try new (and non-cream-based) soups this winter, we once again turned to Alice Waters’ Art of Simple Food this week.  Big surprise, right?  The book has quickly become our go-to source for recipes that are straightforward, tasty and loaded with unprocessed ingredients.

In response to the increasingly chilly weather, we found ourselves drawn to a recipe for Butternut Squash and White Bean Soup – a combination that sounded hearty and warming, to be sure.  The connection between cooler temperatures and butternut squash gets us every time (as evidenced by those amazing turnovers Elizabeth made for our Fakesgiving dinner), and the addition of white beans promised to thicken the soup while making it that much better for us.

Of course, we couldn’t allow ourselves to be TOO healthy.  A dinner party hosted by our friend Nell resulted in a windfall of spiral-sliced ham that was just begging us to put it to good use – who were we to refuse?  Frankly, we were more than a little surprised that Waters hadn’t thought to suggest the addition of ham, bacon, or some other salty meat product as one of her handy-dandy “variations” that accompany most of her basic recipes.

Ingredients, preparation and delicious results after the jump. (more…)

Old Hickory Interior

When it comes to steakhouses, Washington isn’t exactly hurting.  Whether your tastes run to the traditional (the Prime Rib, the Capital Grille, Morton’s), the purist (Ray’s the Steaks) or even the celebrity chef-directed (BLT Steak, Charlie Palmer), DC and its neighbors offer plenty of ways to satisfy your inner carnivore.

Clearly there are plenty of reasons NOT to leave the city for a good steak dinner.  But now there’s one really good reason to do it anyway: Old Hickory Steakhouse at National Harbor.

Two weeks ago, we were invited to participate in a media dinner with the folks at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, our first opportunity to visit the new home of The Awakening since the various components of National Harbor started opening for business in late spring.

Almond Crab CakeOld Hickory is the marquis restaurant at the Gaylord, and our dinner showed us exactly why that is.  From the elegant decor (meant to evoke the classic refinement of a Georgetown grande dame’s home) to the trio of tasting portions we were served (each a smaller version of an appetizer or entree available on the full menu) to the temperature- and humidity-controlled cheese ‘cave,’ everything about the dining room is there to impress.

Our menu, some more views of the gorgeous interior and the food, and details on how to get there after the jump. (more…)

So about a year ago there was this townhouse near Barracks Row – the bar and restaurant district just across Pennsylvania Avenue from Eastern Market – that got our attention. Mike and I used to press our noses against the window and try to make out what was happening inside. No, we weren’t being pervy. We were insanely curious about the future of this townhouse: it was going to be the home of Hill’s Kitchen, a new gourmet kitchen goods boutique owned by Leah Daniels. What would it be like? When would it open? And dammit, why didn’t we think of that name for our blog??

In May 2008, the wait was over. Much to our delight and the delight of food shoppers across DC, Hill’s Kitchen opened its doors.  The boutique has been going strong since then, building a veritable army of loyal shoppers. Hill’s Kitchen reflects a specific view of what Leah envisioned for a retail story – a friendly, homelike place to shop for kitchen goods – and reflects her own warm personality as well.  Leah is an attentive, hands-on store owner. I’ve never visited the store without seeing her behind the register or helping a shopper select the perfect kitchen accessory to fit their needs. 

You’ll find a wide selection of well-edited merchandise in Hill’s Kitchen, from pots and pans to gadgets and accessories to cookbooks. Some of my favorite gift items are the foodie books for kids with titles like Yum Yum Dim Sum and First Book of Sushi. Items in the store reflect Leah’s close monitoring of her customers’ interests. “Hill shoppers look for good quality and creative products they have not seen in other places, ” Leah shared with us. “They savor originality!”

Leah took some time out of the holiday shopping season to talk to us about her store and share some foodie holiday shopping tips. Check out her interview after the jump! (more…)

In the endless stream of “DC is cool but not as cool as New York” comments, our nation’s capital has picked up a well-deserved win.  Local, famed mixologist Todd Thraser took first place in the Domaine de Canton Bartender of the Year semi-finals. Thrasher beat out stiff competition from New York posts such as Flatiron Lounge and Counter Organic Martini Bar in the ginger liqueur’s cocktail-making semi-final .

Capital Spice raises a cocktail (poorly made compared to his creations) to his performance in the finals. Thrasher will be competing for a $10,000 grand prize in St. Martin at the end of February. 

Celebrity cocktails are only as far away as a trip to Old Town. You can enjoy Thrasher’s creations at PX, Restaurant Eve and The Majestic.

The field of competitors that Thrasher beat out:


In the Holy Trinity of Cathal Armstrong restaurants, The Majestic lies squarely in the center. Not as come-as-you-are casual as Eammon’s Dublin Chipper, not as high end as Restaurant Eve. Nope, The Majestic is essentially a dressed up diner offering classic American comfort food done well. Done really well, actually.

The Majestic is an adopted child of Cathal and Meshelle Armstrong, the husband and wife powerhouse behind Restaurant Eve, Eammon’s and PX. The restaurant originally opened in 1932 but passed through many hands and identities before being taken on by the Armstrongs and their team.  I like what they’ve done with the place.

Like the pink beacon of their neon light, The Majestic extends a warm, casual welcome to all who cross its threshold. The space is long and narrow, with a cozy bar area and buttery yellow walls that warm up the long dining room. The ceiling is designed to disperse sound, so you don’t feel like you need to shout to be heard across the table even when the room is full.  One of The Majestic’s best traits, though, (besides the food, which we’ll get to after the jump) is the kitchen. Situated at the end of the long, narrow restaurant, the kitchen is open with its staff on display. While this is a common trend in restaurants today, what makes The Majestic different is the smells. Unlike Central, for example, there is no glass shielding the kitchen staff from the diners. Walking into the dining room is like walking into grandma’s kitchen just before dinner is served. You may not be able to put your finger on exactly what smells so good, but you know it is familiar.

The environment and food attract Old Town locals and destination diners alike, as well as a few DC-style celebrities. At one dinner in November we shared the dining room with Virginia Sen. Mark Warner

Our favorite menu items after the jump! (more…)

When we took our trip out to Skyline Drive back in October, you may recall how excited we were to stumble over Wasmund’s Single Malt Whisky and Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville.

Well it turns out that was just the beginning (or pretty darn close to it).  Rick Wasmund, the namesake and distiller, has been hard at work perfecting his own barrel-aging technique and turning out batches of applewood-smoked whisky that just keep getting smoother and smoother.

Now it’s your turn.  Just in time for the holidays, Copper Fox Distillery  has released ‘baby’ 5-liter barrels that allow Wasmund’s afficionados to age (and flavor, one would suppose) their spirit to their own exacting standards.  Each barrel holds six 750-mL bottles of Wasmund’s Single Malt Spirit, which is the barrel-proof malt that is aged at Copper Fox to eventually become the Wasmund’s we all know and love.

Details on where and how to find this unique gift idea (even if it’s a gift to yourself) after the jump. (more…)

High end chocolate sales are going strong despite the recession. Experts point to the dessert’s health claims as the main reason behind the strength. 

There is a new destination restaurant on the horizon in Clifton, VA.

If you plan to head to New York for some holiday shopping, keep your eyes peeled for Jameson Whiskey’s new interactive billboard

Remember doing those awkward demonstrations in class? Could be worse. A cooking demonstration in an Alabama school went awry and half the student body goes home sick.  

If you were sad to see Danny get the axe in Top Chef this week, you may change your mind after reading this interview.

Trend alert: According to McCormick’s Flavor Forecast, the big trend in 2009 will be pairing comfort food with international flavors. 

A woman returned nearly $100,000 she found in Crakcer Barrel.

Folgers and Dunkin Donuts are taking advantage of the recession to move in on Starbucks. Take-home beans for both coffees are slashing their prices.

ribsFor Elizabeth, our annual holiday trips to visit her family in Kansas City just aren’t complete without lunch at Andres’.  Me?  I need the ‘cue.  Ever since I started taking the trip with her, I’ve had a bit of a barbecue obsession.

lcs-smokerAnd although her family has been at this far longer than I have, giving them ample opportunity to determine just which local barbecue joint is the best, I’ve been working on coming to my own conclusion.  Over the Thanksgiving holiday this year, I got to check out two more versions of the local specialty. 

First, I turned my attention to a rarity: a nationally-praised barbecue establishment that the family had not yet tried: LC’s.  Afterwards, I joined the family in a barbecue run to Gates & Sons, a local chain with six locations.  As I’m quickly learning, the odds of finding that one true barbecue nirvana are pretty slim – it seems like every place I try has something to recommend it over its competitors.

Tasting notes and photos after the jump. (more…)

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