December 2009

Click on the image to go to our Google map that locates every restaurant participating in DC's Winter Restaurant Week 2010.

Last week, we gave you the heads up as soon as Washington’s Winter Restaurant Week listings went up.  The announcement caught us off-guard…the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington did a nice job keeping the dates of this year’s event under wraps until they were ready to let everyone know.

We took advantage of some unexpected downtime during Saturday’s Snowpocalypse to do our usual trick of putting all of the participating restaurants onto a Google map.  You can use it to see if your favorites are participating, or check out a neighborhood and see how many Restaurant Week deals you can score in a six block radius.  It’s yours to do with as you please.

As you look at the map, you’ll notice that there are some real treats participating.  Of course, some continue to confound us with their Lunch Only participation – it’s just SO hard to get away for a decent three-course lunch when your full-time job expects you to be working.  Even so, we’ve seen a few newcomers and some old favorites on the list that are going to make this another good time for DC diners.

These days, you’ve got plenty of us food bloggers working to gather the participating restaurants’ menus.  DC Foodies are the originals when it comes to this, but you’ll probably see some reporting from Brightest Young Things and Dining in DC among others.  We’ll stick to the map-making.

Check back as Restaurant Week approaches early next year – while some of the menus are already getting out, most won’t be finalized until the week or so beforehand.  But don’t wait to book your reservations; you’re going to have to gamble if you want to score a reservation at any of the more sought-after participants.

We’ve already given you some tips to make your choices, and we definitely encourage you to make use of OpenTable (hence the links on our map) for reservations and UrbanSpoon for aggregated reviews.  We’ve already got a couple of blue chip reservations locked in.

<<EDIT: 12/20/09 8:00 PM: Thanks to everyone who helped us put this list together yesterday.  Hope you enjoyed the snow and were able to show some love to your local establishments who stayed open!>>

So we’ve made our peace with the fact that we’re not going to be able to make it over to Corduroy for our planned birthday dinner tonight.  Even though Chef Tom Power and his intrepid crew are open for business, we’re taking the mayor’s (and everyone else’s) advice and staying off the roads.

But we’ve still got to get out there and celebrate somewhere, right?  And so do you.

If you’re planning to keep it local and check out one of your neighborhood establishments, you should probably check first and see if they’re open before you bundle up and head out.

We’re here to help.  We’ll be updating this post with a list of restaurants are definitely open or closed tonight as we hear of them.  Know of others?  Let us know in the comments section.


Ben’s Chili Bowl
Bistro Bis
Bistro Cacao
Brasserie Beck
Busboys and Poets
Capital Lounge
ChurchKey (Birch & Barley not serving dinner)
El Tamarindo
Evening Star Cafe
Granville Moore’s
H Street Country Club (El Norte menu only)
Liberty Tavern
Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar
Logan Tavern
Lost Dog Cafe
The Passenger
Peregrine Espresso (open til 7)
Pete’s Apizza
Piola (open til 8)
Ray’s the Steaks
Red Derby
Red Rocks
Room 11
Taylor Gourmet (K Street NW open til 9 PM; H Street NE open til 3 AM!!!)
Tunnicliff’s (open til 11)
Urbana (bottomless bellinis til 6 PM)


Ben’s Next Door
Birch & Barley
Bistrot Lepic
Bourbon Steak
Central Michel Richard
Clyde’s Gallery Place
Columbia Firehouse
Cork Market
Good Stuff Eatery
The Grille at the Morrison House
Kemble Park Tavern
Leopold’s Kafe & Konditorei
L2 Lounge
The Majestic
Occidental Grill & Seafood
Restaurant Eve
Ristorante Tosca
Screwtop Wine Bar
Sova Espresso & Wine
Sticky Rice
Trummer’s On Main (closed for brunch tomorrow, too)

Whether you’re calling it Snowpocalypse, Snowmageddon, or just tweeting about it with #snOMG, there’s some no-joke snow coming down outside in Washington.  If you’re planning to drive anywhere…don’t.  Mike just helped push a cop car out of drifted snow in our alley.

If you can walk to your nearest coffee shop, kitchen goods store or watering hole, DO IT (just be smart and call ahead to make sure they’re open).  As the police were getting ready to take off, they even asked “So…you guys drinking yet?”

We may not be drinking yet, but we did take a walk down to Eastern Market with Capital Spice mascot Murphy.  He loves to bound through waist-high snowdrifts, but the accumulation is getting to be a bit much even for him this time around.

When we came home, our neighbors had a real treat for us – an old family recipe for something called “Snow Cream.”  We’d never heard of snow cream before, but the bowl that was handed to us looked delicious and we were eager to dig in.  We took it upstairs and broke out some spoons.

Snow cream, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, is an ice cream-like dessert made from freshly fallen snow.  It uses all the old familiar ingredients – milk (or cream), sugar, vanilla and egg.  In Broadway Beth’s case, the recipe comes from her Southern great-grandmother, but I’m sure there are families all over the country with their own versions of the treat.

According to tradition, you shouldn’t make snow cream from the first snowfall of the year (that’s when all the pollutants come down, dontchaknow?).  Thank goodness we had snow last weekend – even if it didn’t amount to anything – because we’ve got plenty of raw materials to work with today!

Did you stock up on milk and eggs like everyone else yesterday?  Interested in making some snow cream of your own?  It’s actually pretty easy, though the fact that this is an old family recipe means that measurements are largely abandoned in favor of tradition.

Snow Cream

Freshly fallen snow
1 cup milk (whole is preferable, but use what you’ve got), plus more for desired consistency
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Once the snow has been falling for a while (check!), place a large bowl mixing bowl outside and let it collect your base.  Meanwhile, mix the remaining ingredients together until the sugar is dissolved – do not heat.

When you’ve gathered enough snow, bring the bowl back inside and pour the cream mixture over the top.  Stir to combine, adding additional milk until you’ve gotten everything to the consistency you’d like.

Enjoy right away, or put it in the freezer to firm up a bit.

And if you feel compelled to go all foodie on this classic, feel free to jazz it up with any of your typical ice cream blend-ins (we’ll probably hold off on the roquefort and honey for now).

It’s that time of year again.  Without a Presidential Inauguration to delay this year’s Winter Restaurant Week, it’s definitely snuck up on us.

If you were counting on us to give you advance warning like we have in the past…our bad.  The list of participating restaurants was posted this morning, and Hungry Hungry Hipsters are already out there booking reservations.

Because this is the first Restaurant Week of 2010, prices creep up by another penny.  Three-course lunches will run you $20.10 this time around, and dinners will set you back $35.10 for three courses.

The good news is that all of our previous advice still holds true:

  • Do your homework. Don’t book a reservation at a place that regularly offers a similar deal.  Do some scouting work and find a place that sounds appealing, then check to make sure the deal really is.  (NOTE: Once menus start coming out, look out for upcharges that significantly alter the deal).
  • Be flexible. EVERYONE wants a Restaurant Week reservation for Saturday night around 7 PM.  Try to snag one ASAP using OpenTable, or set your sights on a mid-week dinner.  Either way, be prepared with two or three choices to hedge your bets.
  • Be adventurous. Try a place you’ve never been but always wanted to.  Or check out a place you’ve never even HEARD of.  Either way, it’s a better use of the Restaurant Week experience than a trip to your favorite steak place.
  • Think new. We’re always excited to see new restaurants jumping on the Restaurant Week bandwagon the first time around.  Kellari Taverna and Bibiana both jumped out as first-timers, and I’m sure we’ll find a few more as we dig deeper into the list.

As always, we’ll be posting our signature Restaurant Week map for your reference so you can plot out your plan of attack.

We’ll also have some recommendations – just as soon as we’ve got our own reservations locked in!

In the meantime, let us know where you’ll be going when you book your Restaurant Week conquests…we’re always looking for a few good recommendations.

Photo from

A few months ago, we wrote about one of our consistent favorites in Penn Quarter, PS 7’s.  We praised Chef Peter Smith’s approach to his menu and his commitment to using the best ingredients available to make inventive dishes with satisfying, complex flavors.  We mentioned Gina Chersevani’s cocktails in passing, but we largely focused on the meal.

For a lot of guests at PS 7’s, that’s the way they experience the menu.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  A few of our fellow bloggers (as well as the not-long-for-DC Daily Candy) have written about a way to have your cake and eat it too, in a manner of speaking.  If you know to order it, you can actually enjoy a seven-course tasting menu that comes paired with seven of Gina’s amazing cocktails in the lounge.

Don’t expect to see a menu (they abandoned the mysterious wax-sealed menus that the guys at the Scofflaw’s Den experienced), but do come prepared to eat and drink well.

How well?  Find out after the jump. (more…)

As we mentioned earlier, we really were impressed by the scope of the entries we received for this contest.  If the producers of Top Chef just worked with the 80+ suggestions we received, they could easily fill an entire season of quickfire and elimination challenges in the nation’s capital.  You’ve certainly done your part to help show what a great backdrop DC could offer for Top Chef.

We’re grateful to Bravo’s “Eat Tastefully” for giving us the opportunity to offer this contest in the first place.  The winner will receive a prize package that includes a DVD set of Top Chef Season 5 and a copy of the new Top Chef Quickfire Cookbook.

Just to give you an idea of the kind of creative thinking we saw from all of you, we want to highlight a few of our favorites:

  • FrenchTwistDC – “Toothpick rule” quickfire challenge! With the no-free-meals-from-lobbyists rules in effect now, lobbyists can only feed congressional aides hors d’oeuvres and “food that you have to eat standing up using a toothpick.”


  • Jacques – “Contestants must create two dishes for a cocktail party of presidential historians and American history buffs. Each dish is inspired by and uses an ingredient associated with an American President. Draw knifes with president’s name and ingredient.  Guest Judges: White House Chef Sam Kass and Presidential Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.  Location: A White House-related/adjacent restaurant/hotel: one of Founding Farmers Restaurant, the Hay-Adams, W, or Willard Hotel, or the atrium space at Old Ebbitt Grill.”


  • statedinner – “Cheftestants will start at the Library of Congress. They will be presented with menus from various state dinners and will be asked to update them using local ingredients and their own personal style. The guest judge can either be the curator/head librarian of the Library of Congress or the White House Head Chef.”


  • leslie – “Location: Start with a visit to the Inn at Little Washington for a discussion of locally produced ingredients; Introduce Guest Chef Judge Patrick O’Connell, one of the finest chefs in the nation. Hold an elimination challenge at Montpelier, President Madison’s home to benefit the Archeology Research Program just a few miles away which would include a discussion of why it was included in the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1984. Prepare two dishes in the kitchen at the Inn at Little Washington for each of the 100 attending a charity benefit at Montpelier using the same protein randomly chosen from those selected for the competition by Chef O’Connell from the local area.”


  • Gunther Freehill – “Each contestant draws a knife with the name of a country with an embassy on or near Sheridan Circle. They are told to prepare two dishes: One that represents the country they have chosen, the other that is distinctly American but would appeal to people in that country.  Each contestant cooks in the kitchen of the embassy of the country they choose. Ideally, they would each have a partner in the person of the chef from the embassy. But the twist is that they can advise one another, but the Top Chef contestant cooks the first dish, the embassy chef the American dish.”

In some of these cases, it was the little details that set them apart from others who made similar suggestions.  In others, it was their absolute originality that made us smile.  We had a few obvious shills in and among the suggestions, but even they were respectful and obviously eager to show how they could be a part of showing what’s best about the DC food scene.

But there was one suggestion that stood out in our minds from the very beginning.  It had that “just-right” feel that makes you say “Of course!” when you read it.  Combining the uniqueness of Washington with the spirit of Top Chef and the very concept of judging, our winner hit the nail right on the head.

  • Amy – “Should definitely involve the Supreme Court Justices – the best-trained judges around! The contestants could be required to make quick, healthy meals during a quick fire for the justices to eat during conference. The Justices are a bit older – so focusing on foods that will taste good, but that are also giving you the nutrition you need when your entire day is spent sitting on the bench or researching.”

There’s something about the idea of seeing the chefs in their coats serving to the Justices in their black robes that worked for us.

So congratulations to Amy for her winning suggestion – we’ll be getting in touch with you today to arrange the shipping of your prize package.  And thanks to everyone who helped us make the case for DC as an ideal Top Chef host city.

We know, we know…we promised to announce the winner of our Top Chef DC Elimination Challenge this morning.  We were blown away by your response: more than 80 suggestions that touched on almost every aspect of Washington life.  Our word is good – we’ll announce the winner shortly.

Photo by Len Depas

But since we’ve got your attention, we wanted to take a minute to tell you about a terrific way for you to help out one of our favorite local charities.  BGR has teamed up with the DC Central Kitchen to put on a unique promotion for the month of December.  Throughout the month, BGR will donate one hamburger’s worth of their prime ground beef for every burger purchased in all three of their locations (Bethesda, Old Town and Dupont Circle).

DC Central Kitchen has been “Feeding the Soul of the City” for 20 years now, offering hot meals to the homeless and quite a bit more.  Their Fresh Start Catering and Capital Carts programs provide training, education and job opportunities in the culinary industry for individuals trying to turn their lives around.  And their relationships with local restaurants and farmers’ markets allow them to make use of over a ton of donated food every day.

What does this cost you?  Absolutely nothing.  Buy the same burger you normally would, and BGR will make the contribution.  You don’t need to mention a secret word or turn in some kind of coupon or even know you’re doing it…BGR will give for every burger sold, period.

Sure, the DC dining scene is positively overrun with burger joints.  Chances are there’s at least one or two other options between you and your nearest BGR.  And we’re not about to tell you which establishment should be your favorite (that’s an intensely personal decision that every person needs to make for himself or herself).  But how many of BGR’s competitors are stepping up with this kind of charitable giving?

If you’ve never tried Mark Bucher’s badass burgers, this is a perfect excuse to check them out for yourself.  We experienced BGR for the first time last month, and it’s a safe bet we’ll be back to check out some of their other burgers soon enough.  And – we can’t stress this enough – try it with the Orange Standard.  Those sweet potato fries were GREAT.

Image courtesy Washington City Paper

Philadelphia Cheesesteak.  New York Pizza.  Kansas City Barbecue.

You know you’ve found a city’s signature dish when the conversation changes from “what’s to eat?” to “who does it better?”  Back in July, Tim Carman at the Washington City Paper ruffled some feathers when he suggested that DC lacks a signature dish of its own.  What about the half-smoke, especially the chili half-smoke from Ben’s?

As much as I hate to admit it, he makes a compelling argument.  Thankfully,  Carman wasn’t satisfied with just making that downer of a point.  He has since been engaged in an ongoing conversation with readers, chefs and other writers.  The topic: In the absence of a single signature dish, is there a pantheon of can’t-miss plates that locals and visitors alike should seek out to experience the best of what Washington has to offer?

Carman and his audience found plenty of candidates – more than 100 dishes were suggested.  The concept of a DC Dish Hall of Fame was clearly a popular one, and in late October it was announced that the inaugural class would be decided by popular vote from a list of 30 standout items.

With the vote deadline coming up on Friday, we’re in the home stretch.  Of the 30 dishes on the survey, the top 5 will be named to the Hall of Fame.  Currently, those five would be:

  • Half-smoke with chili at Ben’s Chili Bowl, 399 votes
  • Falafel at Amsterdam Falafelshop, 349
  • Hamburger at Five Guys, 223
  • Peruvian chicken at El Pollo Rico, 161
  • Margherita pizza at 2Amys, 148
  • We reached out to Carman to ask him a few questions about the overall concept and where the Hall of Fame will go from here.  Check it out after the jump. (more…)

    Click on the image to go to our Google Map that locates all of the critics' picks for best restaurants in DC.

    About a month ago, we unveiled our latest Google map, which highlighted all of the top-rated restaurants in the area as determined by the critics at the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper and Washingtonian Magazine.  Judging by the response, it was an idea whose time had come.  But it wasn’t complete.

    One of the first comments we received when we posted the map was “Where’s Northern Virginia Magazine’s 50 Best list?”  The regional monthly has been serving NoVA since February 2006, and they publish an annual list of best restaurants in the area compiled by Dining Editor Warren Rojas.

    We posted our map just as the issue with the 2009 list in it hit newstands.  It should have been perfect timing for inclusion, right?  Wrong. 

    Find out what caused the delay after the jump. (more…)

    Last week, we finished our interview of Bryan Voltaggio with a poll.  Judging by the number of responses we’ve received, quite a few of our readers are watching Top Chef along with us – and you’re pretty evenly divided between Atlanta’s Kevin Gillespie and local favorite Bryan as your choice to win it all.

    Here at Capital Spice, we want to give you a chance to join in the winning during the finale on Wednesday night.  We’ve got a Top Chef prize package that includes a copy of Top Chef Season 5 (featuring DC’s own Carla Hall) and the new Top Chef Quickfire Cookbook.  The prizes come courtesy of Bravo’s “Eat Tastefully,” an online series in which Season 3 cheftestant Brian Malarkey whips up healthier versions of winning dishes.

    And they can be yours – just in time for the holidays – if you join in the contest after the jump. (more…)

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