October 2009

St Regis Red SnapperSometimes an event comes to our attention that seems absolutely perfect for us.  Champagne and chocolates?  Yes, please.  Dining al fresco at an amazing farm in horse country?  You betcha.  Bourbon and barbecue?  Sign us up!

Even so, there are times when the sheer scope of an event causes us to lose sight of it until it’s almost too late.  This is another one of those times.

Throughout the month of October, St. Regis Hotels around the world have been celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Bloody Mary.  The classic brunch cocktail was “perfected” by bartender Fernand Petiot at the King Cole Bar in New York’s St. Regis Hotel in October of 1934.  It was soon renamed the “Red Snapper,” in an effort to class up the drink and to avoid offending any delicate sensibilities among their upscale guests.

And how do you celebrate the Bloody Mary?  Get a few of your city’s top chefs and mixologists to contribute creative takes on the drink and serve them up alongside the classic on a special bar menu.  Then shout the good news from the rooftops.

Here in Washington, the St. Regis has accomplished those first two steps admirably, gathering drinks from the likes of Art Smith, Spike Mendelsohn and Todd Gray, among others.  Even so, we’ve been surprised by the relative lack of shouting we’ve been hearing about this…and as a result, we almost forgot about it altogether.  Now we’ve only got this last weekend to take advantage of this bloody good time.

Details on the cocktails being offered – and a firsthand look at the original in its natural habitat – after the jump. (more…)

It’s a big week for DC food bloggers, with two worthwhile events coming up over the next few days.

If you’ve noticed there seem to be a whole lot of folks writing about the DC cooking, dining and drinking scene lately, you’re not alone.  Whether your taste runs to do-it-yourself recipes at home, recreating restaurant classics, or writing about restaurant experiences around town, there are plenty of new blogs out there for you to check out.

bakesaleSure, that means we end up spending a lot more time reading about food…but is that really such a bad thing?

For us, the exciting thing is the potential to give back that the growing ranks of bloggers represent.  Some local food bloggers have been working to help local causes for years, now: DC Foodies donates ad revenues from their site to local food-related charities.  Dining in DC is working as a team captain for Food & Friends’ Slice of Life.  And Foodie Tots and the Arugula Files took the lead on a “Blog for the Bay” campaign earlier this year.

Now Adventures in Shaw is organizing a “Food Bloggers’ Spooktacular Bake Sale” to take place this Saturday at the 14th & U farmers’ market, with the proceeds benefitting Martha’s Table.  We’re officially calling all local food bloggers to pitch in and help.  If you’re a local food blogger and you want to help, there are several ways you can get involved.  You can bake some treats to contribute to the sale.  You can show up on Saturday and help sell the goodies.  And you can help us spread the word on your blog, as well.  It’s a great way to get involved and to help a worthwhile program in the process.

happyhourOnce you’ve done your part to help out, put on your party shoes and join us next Wednesday night for the third monthly DC Food Bloggers’ Happy Hour.  This month, we’ll be taking over the Black Squirrel’s newly opened second floor space to get together with all of our fellow food bloggers, new and old.  Looking for an opportunity to meet your fellow writers?  Eager to spend some time with folks who are just as passionate about eating and drinking as you are?  Or just needing an excuse to check out the Black Squirrel?  These are all good reasons to join us next Wednesday.

The Happy Hour runs from 6 to 8 PM, and it’s being organized by the Arugula Files, Gradually Greener, the Modern Domestic, us, the Beer Spotter, and Capital Cooking.  You can find the Black Squirrel at 2427 18th Street in Adams Morgan.

As always, drop us a quick note and let us know if you plan to stop by.  Hope to see you there!


Image courtesy of http://www.mourayous.com

With all the new restaurants that are opening in town, we could easily write about two or three places a week without ever talking about restaurant that’s been open for more than a year.  It’s a great problem to have, from the perspective of innovation and a constantly expanding restaurant scene.  But it’s definitely a challenge if you’re trying to get a handle on everything that’s out there for DC diners.

Thankfully, we were enticed to check out Mourayo as a result of a recent Groupon offering.  Despite appearing on Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants list four years in a row, the Connecticut Avenue Greek restaurant never really jumped out at us as a must-try.  But sweeten the deal with that Groupon discount, and it leapt to the front of our list.

OctopusWhen you think of Greek cuisine, chances are you envision the staples of the Mediterranean diet: olive oil, lemons, fish, lamb.  If so, Mourayo is the place for you – they pride themselves on delivering a blend of contemporary and traditional experiences in a nautically-inspired setting.  While specials will necessarily vary from visit to visit, the main menu offers everything from mussels in an ouzo broth to a ground-duck mousaka.

More on our visit to this “fisherman’s safe harbor” after the jump. (more…)

Looking to add a little culture to your Sunday night? Head over to Darlington House. The Actor’s Salon presents a staged reading of Holiday, by Philip Barry starting at 6pm. The restaurant and bar are open before and after the event.

China’s haunting soups.  
What do you think of the new, smaller Coke can? 
Not sure how to celebrate Halloween like an adult? Check out the Transylvanian Gala at the Romanian Embassy on October 30th, complete with traditional Romanian food. 
Napa 1015 on H St NE is closing
The best of both worlds: pumpkin beer ice cream
Six Australian foods worth trying
Trout, a more sustainable option that salmon, is growing in popularity on restaurant menus. 

Get your learn on this fall. Enology is kicking off a cocktail making class and 1789 is launching their new cooking class highlighting the American chestnut.

Firehook ExteriorAsk any DC transplant from New York, New Jersey or Philadelphia and they’ll tell you – in no uncertain terms – that you just can’t get good bread in Washington.  It’s the water, they say.  Whether it’s the crust, the crumb or the taste, something is always just a little off.

The folks at Firehook would politely disagree.  That’s just how they are.  Since 1992, Firehook Bakeries have been turning out bread from natural steam ovens that makes the argument for Washington.

Along the way, they’ve built up quite the following.  Whether you visit them in Old Town, Dupont Circle or Cleveland Park, you’ll find a selection of breads, but you’ll also find cookies, pastries and even sandwiches and salads.  On Capitol Hill, there are more than a few offices that rely on Firehook for their regular meeting sustenance.

Beyond the baguettes after the jump. (more…)

man v foodThere are some food-focused TV shows we love, like Top Chef, No Reservations, and America’s Test Kitchen.  And there are others whose premise we’re not entirely on board with…Bizarre Foods, I’m looking at you.

Until recently, Man versus Food fell squarely into that second category.  There was something about the idea of a guy repeatedly taking on “big eater” type challenges that seemed unnecessary at best and unhealthy at worst.

But then I actually bothered to watch an episode or two (okay, it may have been a marathon) and found a show that was part travelogue, part comedy…and part “big eater” challenge.  It was more than I had guessed it would be, and I found myself liking host Adam Richman’s enthusiasm, humor and outsized personality.  He was more than just a host; he came across as a cheerleader for wherever he was visiting.

RichmanIn each episode, Richman takes viewers to a couple of honest-to-goodness local establishments before taking on his challenge.  It may be a lunch counter or a burger joint, but it’s always the kind of place that locals hate to see revealed on national television.

And then I heard Man v. Food would be filming in DC – and in our neighborhood, no less!  The epsiode aired last night, and we tuned in to see a couple of Washington’s landmark dining spots.

Details on the episode and highlights from Ben’s Chili Bowl and Horace & Dickies after the jump. (more…)

Gourmet1009It’s a silly question, really.  While Gourmet may be the grande dame of food publications, it was hardly existing in a vacuum.  All the proof you need can be found over at The Bitten Word, where Zach and Clay work their way through recipes from magazines as august as Saveur and Bon Appetit and as accessible as Everyday Food and Food Network Magazine.

Here at Capital Spice, we subscribe to Cooks Illustrated and Food & Wine (we used to subscribe to Gourmet, and we’re really hoping our lapsed subscription didn’t have anything to do with its demise).  But there’s another type of food magazine out there, and a recent visit to the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market reacquainted us with a pair of magazines that focus on our local foodshed.

On the surface, Flavor Magazine and Edible Chesapeake have a lot in common: They’re both free publications that can be found in foodie-friendly places like farmers’ markets, Whole Foods and smaller, locally-owned food shops.  They both emerged in response to the growing locavore movement in the DC area.  And they both call attention to a variety of local issues and producers that tend to go unnoticed in the national publications.

But each one brings a unique voice to the community, and together they offer a great way to stay current on what’s going on among growers, producers and eaters in the region.

A look at the current issues of Flavor Magazine and Edible Chesapeake (and some more info about each) after the jump. (more…)


After taking a highly scientific survey of my engaged and married friends, the wedding priority list appears to be:


  1. The successful exchange of “I Dos”
  2. Look amazing
  3. Have a reception so legendary your friends talk about it for years and simultaneously hate you because they know they’ll never possibly top it

I’m pleased to share a new weapon in your wedding planning arsenal, helping you attack #3 with a vengence.  endives

Jose Andres Catering now brings the magic and whimsy that made the chef famous to catereed events. Jose Andres Catering offers four distinct menus: Mediterranean – think Zaytinya’s classic and contemporary mix of Greek and Lebanese cuisine; Mexican – with bright flavor combinations like jicama wrapped tuna ceviche; Spanish – featuring classic flavors  you may recognize from Cafe Atlantico plus a paella dish the width of a hot tub; and Jose’s Way, the closest approximation many of your guests may get to tasting the genius of minibar starring the potato mousse and Jose’s take on the Philly Cheese Steak.

Thinking of a signature cocktail? How about a Magic Mojito from the Jose’s Way menu. Guests can ogle as cocktails are mixed and poured over a cloud of cotton candy, which replaces the sugar cane in the drink.  Further sweetening the deal, Chef Andres partnered with notable Ridgewells Catering for service, ensuring a smooth experience for your event. 

Jose Andres Catering
5525 Dorsey Lane
Bethesda MD 20816
(301) 652-1898

Photo Courtesy of Casey Patten

Photo Courtesy of Casey Patten

When Taylor Gourmet II rolls up its big garage-style door at 11 AM today, Mount Vernon Square is in for a treat.  By now you’ve heard all about the opening – a friends & family reception on Tuesday night turned out plenty of bloggers and media friends who have sounded the alarm.

If you love the Race Street or the 9th Street Italian, this is good news.

If you live in the V at City Vista (or in the newly-expanded Taylor delivery area), this is decidedly good news.  Between Taylor, Busboys and Poets and the forthcoming Kushi you’re getting pretty darn spoiled.

If you happen to get your run on at the Results gym above the new Taylor, this is VERY bad news.  Nothing like fresh mozzarella and prosciutto to undo an hour on the elliptical.  At least the great taste makes it well worth the extra gym time.

Casey Patten and David Mazza have earned all the attention they’ve received so far – they’ve been open and engaging with their neighbors (like us) and they’ve done a great job of telling their unique story to the media.  Their creative use of reclaimed materials in both Taylor locations doesn’t hurt…nor does the sleek, polished look of everything from the sign out front to the countertops.  It just feels cool.

Photo Courtesy of Casey Patten

Photo Courtesy of Casey Patten

It’s definitely not broke, so they didn’t try to change much when they jumped at the opportunity to expand into this new space at the City Vista.  Instead, Mazza and Patten looked for more ways to incorporate repurposed materials into the design of the new, larger space.  They inverted 55-gallon metal drums and 5-gallon tubs, turning them into overhead light fixtures.  They continued their use of deconstructed shipping palates as wall coverings.  And they took scraps left over from their rolled steel countertops to form a 6-foot by 6-foot communal table that will have pride of place within the new store.

Like the original, Taylor II will be a combination deli and market.  In addition to the made-to-order sandwiches – still served on Sarcone’s Italian bread shipped in daily from Philadelphia – you’ll be able to buy a variety of Italian and Italian-American products including pastas, sauces and olive oil.  The inventory is hand-selected by Mazza and Patten, who pride themselves on bringing in the best and offering it at a competitive price.

When you get there?  Be sure to try the arancini – you’ll thank us.  Just don’t ask for mayo on your sandwich.  They don’t have any, and they don’t make any apologies for what they see as an issue of authenticity.

If you’ve had a chance to visit Taylor on H Street since it opened, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what to expect at this second location.  If you haven’t, you’ve got one less excuse not to check out Taylor: this location is just two blocks from the Metro, on K Street Northwest.

Taylor Gourmet II
485 K Street, NW
Washington, DC
Taylor Gourmet II on Urbanspoon

Photo courtesy of Matthew Worden

Photo courtesy of Matthew Worden

Our love of sushi is well-documented here at Capital Spice, but we’re no experts.  To start off, we’re way too fond of Americanized sushi, with its myriad rolls and its focus on big, meaty fish like tuna and salmon.  Like Steve Buscemi on guitar in The Wedding Singer, we’re self-taught; we’ve come by our favorites through trial and error, without the benefit of a formal education on the traditions and techniques behind an authentic sushi experience.

But there are definitive experts out there and Trevor Corson is at the top of that esteemed list. Corson is the author of a Zagat best-food-book-of-the-year pick “The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice,” an occasional judge on Iron Chef America, and the only “Sushi Concierge” in the U.S., based primarily in New York City.

Luckily for all the sushiheads in DC reading this, Trevor is also teaching a class at CulinAerie called “All Things Sushi.” The first class is this Saturday, Oct. 17. The lucky participants – the class maxes out at 32 students – will sip sake and receive hands-on instruction on how to make sushi at home. But DC is a town of show-offs and ‘splainers, so Trevor’s class will also discuss the history and culture of sushi while teaching participants how to order sushi and eat it in the proper Japanese style, making you the hottest star at the sushi bar.

We  caught up with Corson recently and he was kind enough to share his insights on the state of sushi in America and the little differences that can help you win over a sushi chef.

You’ve established yourself as one of the foremost authorities on sushi here in America – what was it that inspired you to focus on sushi after your initial success with lobsters?

My two biggest obsessions in life are nature and East Asia. I fell in love with nature, and the ocean in particular, during my boyhood summers on the Maine coast. By the time I attended high school at Sidwell Friends in Washington, I was determined to become a marine biologist. But on a whim, I signed up for Sidwell’s unusual Chinese language program. Through Sidwell, I was then fortunate enough to receive scholarships to study in both Japan and China. I went on to live in East Asia for five years. I never became a marine biologist, but eventually I did move back to Maine to work on fishing boats and write my first book, “The Secret Life of Lobsters.” My second book, “The Story of Sushi,” was my way of returning to my interest in East Asia, and of reconciling my two passions. My interests in marine science and Asian culture finally came together — through food.

It seems like more and more Americans are developing a familiarity and even a comfort with sushi, but reading your work it becomes clear pretty quickly that most of us aren’t getting a particularly authentic experience.  What would you say are the pros and the cons to the Americanized sushi experience?

The degree to which sushi has taken root here is nothing short of astonishing, and in “The Story of Sushi” I describe how that happened, which in itself is a fascinating tale. As sushi became not only a Japanese meal but really an American one as well, it’s evolved into a very different beast. The fact is, most of what we eat at sushi restaurants in America today — as well as how we eat it — was invented right here in the U.S.A., and bears little resemblance to the culinary tradition of sushi in Japan. There are a lot of cons to this, and the biggest one is taste. We’ve imposed an American palate heavy on fat, spiciness, sugar, and salt onto sushi, and as a result we’re missing out on the subtler flavors and textures that tend to be highlighted in the traditional sushi experience. That said, the history of sushi in Japan is itself one of constant change. So I think sushi can evolve in appealing new directions in the West, as long as we make the effort to learn about and honor the unique culinary qualities of the tradition at the same time. 

More Q&A with Trevor after the jump! (more…)

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