March 2009

bread-pudding-afterTwo weeks ago, Melissa McCart of Counter Intelligence launched a new feature called “Favorite Five.”  In it, she asks local chefs about their – you guessed it – five favorite ingredients and then attempts to use them all in a single meal.  She also invites fellow food writers to join her in the challenge; the different takes help to illustrate the versatility of the chef’s favorites.  Last time, Melissa and Missy Frederick of the Washington Business Journal took on Chef Gillian Clark’s favorite five.

This week, Melissa invited us to join her in using five ingredients chosen by Chef/Owner Peter Smith of PS7’s.  Never ones to back down from a challenge, we agreed to work up a menu that included:

1.  Mushrooms (specifically lobster mushrooms and/or morels)
2. Pork (any part of the pig, but Smith particularly likes the versatility of the shoulder)
3. Leeks
4. Yuzu
5. Coriander seed

Care to guess which one gave us a hard time?

You can find Melissa’s menu here.  Our effort – complete with all the fun that went into finding yuzu, never mind using it – after the jump. (more…)

Sorry for the late post… we were too busy frolicking in the cherry blossoms and hosting college friends and generally doing sun salutations to welcome spring and couldn’t be bothered to post this weekend. So, mea culpa and enjoy:

Sonoma chef Drew Trautmann left for greener pastures at Mendocino Grille & Wine Bar in Georgetown.

Trend alert – that Hungarian pig is so hot right now.  (Aaaah! Look at the curly fur on their ears! Is that a pig or spaniel after a bender?) 
The Washington Post is launching TastePost – a “gathering place for Washington area food and drink lovers” which you can gain entry to with an annual $20 subscription. Anyone thinking of joining? We’d love to hear your reviews.  
Tips and recipes for cooking whole fish.
Celebrity dining spotter: Blake Lively and Penn Bagdley at The Waverly Inn
Recession recipe alert! Check out Endless Simmer’s super easy aloo jeera, made with inexpensive ingredients. 
Starbucks rolls out new ice cream flavors.

Prefer to keep your ice cream local? Check out Moorenko’s in McLean. Gut Check has the scoop.  
Culinary Couture offers her own shrimp and grits recipe and it looks delicious!   
Bet you didn’t see this coming: The Black Cat gets a shout out in Gourmet magazine for their food.

Pepsi will use less plastic in new Aquafina bottles. 
FoodieTots shares her views on hormone-laced dairy
Tom Sietsema shares his dining snapshots from NYC.
Seedlings are beginning to sprout at local farms! 
So how do you cook in outer space, anyway? 
Grape Nuts is trying to go manly.  
Ever wondered how serious that egg expiration date is? Endless Simmer gets the scoop.

KFC is launching a unique promotion. They are offering to fill potholes in local neighborhoods, referring to the filled in potholes as “refreshed by KFC.” 
Policy, a new U St restaurant, opened.  
Cupcake fever is hitting DC kitchens. Check out Pete Bakes’ chocolate cupcakes with banana cream cheese frosting  and My Husband Cooks’ take on chocolate cupcakes with coconut cream cheese frosting
For a healthier dessert option (rain be damned, beach season is nearly here) check out cherry compote over chevre from Houndstooth Gourmet. 
An ode to sausage.


Guacamole, Minibar style.

It was a big week for Washington restaurants, as the James Beard Foundation and the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington both announced their nominees for their respective 2009 awards.  Admittedly, only a portion of our local chefs and restaurateurs were realistically holding their breaths waiting for both, but it was still a dramatic week for the DC dining scene all the same.


Beard Awards photo courtesy of

Among the Beard award nominees, Washington can proudly lay claim to a number of top-tier nods: 

Jose Andres – one of our most recognizable ‘local’ talents after TV appearances on Top Chef, No Reservations and his own Made In Spain – is nominated for Outstanding Chef.  Like two of his competitors this year (Dan Barber of Blue Hill in New York and Suzanne Goins of Lucque in LA), Andres is back for another shot at the title after losing out to Grant Achatz of Chicago’s Alinea last year.  Though he’s nominated for Minibar, Andres’ new Bazaar in Los Angeles could give him the boost he needs to top Tom Colicchio and the other top chefs in this category.

Komi’s Johnny Monis is also a repeat nominee for a marquee category: Rising Star Chef of the Year.  This award highlights a standout chef under the age of 30, and it’s interesting to note that four of this year’s six nominees were also up for the award last year (including Monis), which went to Cafe Boulud’s Gavin Kaysen.

Washingtonians were rightly proud of Central Michel Richard’s win for Best New Restaurant last year, but the closest thing to defending that title we can hope for is a win for Jose Andres’ Bazaar.  If I had to guess, though, my money’s got to be on Vienna-native David Chang’s Momofuku Ko.

When it comes to the Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic category, the Washington area absolutely overwhelmed the rest of the region (which includes Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia as well as the District).  Three of the five nominees are local favorites: Vikram Sunderam of Rasika, Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve, and Peter Pastan of Obelisk.  Tough choice!

Even our local journalists received recognition from the nominating committee, with the Post’s Tom Sietsema receiving two nominations and the Post’s Food section (helmed by Joe Yonan) earning a nod of their own.

All in all, a pretty decent showing by Washington chefs, restaurants and writers…especially when compared to the number of nominees recognized from other major cities across the country.

rammy_sig_final2And the RAMMYs?  Since they ARE the awards for the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, all of the nominees are obviously going to be local.  Reading through the list of candidates for the various awards, it’s sometimes more interesting to look for the folks who aren’t nominated.

The full list of nominees can be found on the main page of the RAMW site, but it’s worth noting the absence  of several of the aforementioned Beard nominees – Johnny Monis and Peter Pastan – as well as local favorites like Michael Landrum.  Why, you might ask?  It’s easy to assume, as one anonymous commenter did over at Metrocurean, that someone at RAMW is holding a grudge against these talented chefs. 

But the answer is actually pretty straightforward and simple.  In order to be nominated for a RAMMY, you have to be a member of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington.  A quick look at their current membership list confirms that Komi, Obelisk, and the Ray’s family of restaurants are not members and are therefore ineligible for consideration.

That being said, the lists of nominees for key categories like Upscale Casual restaurant and Rising Culinary Star are definitely  made up of some of the brightest culinary lights in the area…there are very few categories this year where one nominee is a clear favorite.

Have you taken a look at the nominees yet?  If so, what do you think – any glaring omissions or definite standouts?

Keep an eye on the RAMW site – several of the categories, including Neighborhood Gathering Place, Hottest Restaurant Bar Scene, and Power Spot, are open for voting by the public.  We’ll put up a link when voting opens – and we may even give a hint or two about our favorites when the time comes.

For now, we offer a heartfelt congratulations to all of the nominees for Beard Awards and RAMMYs.  With this much talent in the Washington area, it’s no wonder we’re finally starting to get some of the credit we deserve among foodies across the country.

img_7184Maybe it’s a Jersey thing, or possibly a guy thing.  Either way, I love me a good sandwich.  There are few foods that I approach with such eager abandon as a sub piled high with fresh-sliced cold cuts, slathered with mustard and topped with lettuce, tomato and other assorted veggies.

But there are sandwiches…and then there are sandwiches.  Oh, I’ll still gladly tuck into just about any combination of meats, cheeses and bread you offer me, but there’s really only one sandwich I actively crave.  For the life of me, I couldn’t tell you when I first became aware of the one they call the Cubano, but since that day it has been the sandwich by which all other sandwiches are judged in my eyes.

Details on this not-s0-guilty pleasure – including how to make them at home – after the jump. (more…)

surfside-margaritaWhen a restaurant’s menu focuses on unfussy foods like fish tacos, fresh guacamole and salads, the presence of a chef like David Scribner can be a cause for concern.  If the chef is intent on showing what he’s capable of, the simplicity of the dishes can be overwhelmed and even ruined.

Fortunately, Surfside in Glover Park has no such problem.  Scribner’s focus on refining, rather than reinventing, results in flavors that are big but balanced.  And despite the wide range of influences that make appearances on the menu, Scribner seems to have things well in hand.  Dishes come out tasting…right.

surfside1We arrived at Surfside for a meatless Friday night dinner, having heard good things about the fish tacos and the overall vibe.  Walking in just after 8, we were greeted by a line of people waiting to order and a further crowd awaiting their food while watching for a table to open up.  The line moved steadily, giving us just enough time to familiarize ourselves with the ordering protocols: grab an order form that corresponds with the item or items you want, and then check the appropriate boxes before handing it over to the cashier.

Sounds simple enough, right?  It is…unless you decide to get creative and go for a make-your-own taco, burrito or salad.  In each case, you need to grab a separate color-coded form to fill out your a la carte order.  If everyone in your group decides to choose their own adventure, you could find yourself turning in a veritable rainbow of order slips.

Margaritas, guacamole, and some tasty fish tacos after the jump. (more…)

tapdcEven at the height of DC’s water quality concerns, Washingtonians were never really in danger of having to go without…it was just a matter of how long we needed to boil what was coming out of the tap before we could actually drink it.  UNICEF’s World Water Week seeks to address far more serious water-access issues in more than 90 countries around the world.

And you can help.

This week, almost 100 Washington-area restaurants are participating in this year’s version of the Tap Project.  From now through Saturday night, when you dine in these establishments you’ll receive a donation card with your bill at the end of the meal.  Any contribution you wish to make will be added to your bill and that amount will be donated to UNICEF’s clean water programs.

Tap DC, the local organization spearheading the effort, encourages diners to think of it as paying for the complimentary water we take for granted when we dine out, and they point out that a single dollar can help to provide clean, safe drinking water for a child for 40 days.  If you prefer sparkling water with your meal, consider making a donation equal to the price of that Pellegrino and you’ll be helping even more people!

How to get involved after the jump. (more…)

potenzaWhen they open their doors for dinner service tonight, Potenza will culminate the process of revitalizing a corner of downtown DC whose most memorable recent tenant was a surprisingly resilient bikini shop.  This newest offering from the Stir Food Group (the folks who’ve given us Zola and the new Zola Wine & Kitchen), is actually a variety of concepts under one roof: a trattoria-style dining room, a bakery and a wine shop will all co-exist under the Potenza name by the time everything is up and running.

Located at the corner of 15th and H Streets, NW, just a few blocks from the White House, Potenza is in a prime location for an Obama date night.  And their menu, as developed by Executive Chef Bryan Moscatello and his staff, features a broad range of flavors that can generally be described as “rustic Italian.”  But chatting with partner Dan Mesches, it’s clear that Potenza doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed.  How you see them will likely depend on which of their concepts suits you best.

scrollwork-over-pewsOn Saturday afternoon, with mock service going on all around us, I met with Darcey Thomson for a walk through the (vast) space.  Ms. Thomson is the marketing manager for CORE Architecture & Design, the firm responsible for turning a warren of chopped up little storefronts into a cohesive, flowing space for dining, drinking, and otherwise enjoying yourself.  If that name sounds familiar, you may remember them from their work with Founding Farmers and their efforts to design the space to meet LEED certification standards for ‘green’ building.

More of our first look at Potenza, including some additional photos and details on their official opening dates (beyond tonight’s dinner) after the jump. (more…)

Exciting news about a White House vegetable garden!

Frozen Tropics posts Napa 1015’s March menu.

Nino’s in New York is offering free dinner to Madoff victims.  
Love pulled pork but don’t have a grill or smoker? DC Foodies writer Stephanie tries it on her slow cooker
Trying to adjust its brand to the recession, Starbucks goes for a more “coffeehouse vibe” and removes pricing from the board in an effort to appear more affordable.  Who the F came up with that idea? 
So Good kicks off Meat Madness
Discover your cooking personality.

The Peacock Café is offering a March Madness happy hour special. I wonder if this is for people who want to watch the game at a bar or for people who don’t care about March Madness to escape the constant drone of college basketball?
Share your food rules with author Michael Pollan. 
Metrocurean has a great list of restaurants who serve up a family-style Sunday supper
A new book reminisces on the days of truly regional American food.  
PQ Living gives us the heads up on the new restaurant in the metro center Marriott.  
Jell-O is promoting antioxidants in a new ad campaign featuring Dancing With the Stars winner Brooke Burke.  
Good Stuff Eatery’s Spike is offering amped up matzah recipes at the Sixth and I Synagogue in time for Passover. You can win tickets at Brightest Young Things.

Is there a whoopie pie coming your way?  
Two Quail, an upscale frenchy-french restaurant on Capitol Hill has closed.   
French Laundry chef Thomas Keller shares his experience with roast chicken
Read Meat DC reviews Localat. Check out those waffles.  
We are coming up on artichoke season. Have any favorite recipes? 
According to Young & Hungry, H Street Country Club is delaying its much-anticipated opening due to DC city snafus. 
A new culinary trend report highlights Latin American flavors about to hit our radar.

Dunkin Donuts launches a create-a-donut contest
Food tips for celebrating the Persian new year.  
Where does Obama eat when in Hawaii? Find out here
Tips from a pro on building buzz for a new restaurant.  
Campbell’s soup launches a promotion to help Future Farmers of America.

Ever had one of those nights when no one can quite agree on dinner? Usually this devolves into nice fighting: “Well, I’d like vegetarian but whatever you guys want” and then “Oh, well. Japanese sounds good but if you want to do something else I don’t mind.”  Don’t waste precious minutes of your life on this jibba jabba – just make a reservation at Cafe Asia.

Serving up dishes of Asian-influenced food ranging from Chinese to Thai to Japanese, Cafe Asia is a neighborhood standard across the DC metro area, but I most often find myself in their  Rosslyn and downtown DC locations. Walking across the threshold of both Cafe Asia locations brings you into a soaring, modern restaurant with minimalist and sleek decor.  The minimalist theme ends on the walls though – portions at Cafe Asia are a good size and I’ve often walked away with a doggie bag.

If you’re feeling indulgent, check out spicy and sweet fried calamari served crisp and sized to share. Crab wontons, served in almost bite-sized pieces, are also worth a try. On healthier days ,  edamame served in their pods are an easy treat. My favorite appetizer are summer rolls which are wrapped in rice paper with shrimp, rice noodles and cilantro and come with a peanut dipping sauce.


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