January 2010

Congratulations to Oakland restaurant Commis, which received a coveted Michlelin star after being open only 4 months.

A community activist in PG county wants to limit the number of fast food establishments in the county.

Young and Hungry reveals its restaurant review winner!

What 5 kitchen skills are most important to a chef? I hope nunchuk skills makes the cut.

Penn Quarter Living notes that Pret a Manger is opening on the corner of 11th and F.

Food & Wine magazine challenged DC-area sommeliers to a blind identification of… something besides wine.

And Now, Anacostia has a first-hand look at the new neighborhood coffee shop.

The Cupcake Avenger discovers a new gift for foodies.

The Mansion Mogul’s cup runneth over with…venison.  Actually this is a pretty sweet set up.

Pete Bakes makes a pizza with OO flour.

Girl Meets Food enjoys Zengo.

Horrors! Salvatore, Bryan Batt’s character on Mad Men will not return this season!  We may have to make a trip down to New Orleans to send some love (and some cash) his way at Hazelnut New Orleans, his chic home decor shop.

PS7's Gina Chersevani with Alice Waters

If our math is correct, Alice Waters’ Sunday Night Suppers helped to raise more than $100,000 for the DC Central Kitchen and Martha’s Table for the second year in a row.  The 15 all-star dinner parties were limited to 20 guests each, and they featured some of Washington’s best and most established chefs.  But they weren’t the only way to help support these great causes this time around.

In an effort to engage the next generation of savvy and (hopefully) active foodies, Waters and company organized a pre-game called Sunday Night Sips.

Everything about this luxe cocktail reception was planned with a younger audience in mind, from the scaled-back price point to the collection of up-and-coming chefs whose dishes were featured to the high-end cocktails poured by three of DC’s finest craft bartenders.

We were invited to tag along and document the event, and we eagerly accepted.  What awaited us in hosts Greg Nelson and Jose Cunningham’s beautiful home was three floors of food and drink that were designed to impress.  Whether it was Will Artley’s BLT Gnocchi (a favorite we’ve ordered at Evening Star Cafe) or Owen Thompson’s Tequila Milk Punch, each taste packed a flavorful punch.

The evening in images (Who am I kidding? There are plenty of words, too) after the jump. (more…)

Image by Mike Licht, http://www.notionscapital.com

One week ago, we announced the arrival of Meat Week to Washington, DC.  Since that time, we’ve been blown away by the amount of attention that this celebration of all things barbecue has received.  Not surprisingly, Tim Carman was the first to give us a shout-out over at the City Paper, but his nod seems to have triggered an avalanche of additional coverage: Zagat Buzz, UrbanDaddy, Brightest Young Things, DC MetroMix, Notions Capital…even Modern Domestic!

The word is clearly getting around: Meat Week is Real.  But we’ve gotten more than a few emails asking about the finer points of what this is all about.

And we’ve had A LOT of people asking about our Meat Week Special Sneak Preview of Pork Barrel BBQ on Wednesday night at Mango Mike’s in Alexandria.

All your questions answered – and the details on the Pork Barrel preview – after the jump.


Can it be that just a few short years ago there wasn’t a single gastropub in all of Washington?  These days, the concept of high-quality food in a laid-back setting is cropping up all over town.  NOT that we’re complaining.

Gastropubs may be the best culinary trend to come out of the UK since cheddar cheese.  Even so, the first one of note here in Washington was Granville Moore’s, the “gastropub with a healthy Belgian fetish” on the H Street Corridor.  Not far behind was Commonwealth Gastropub, Chef Jamie Leeds’ homage to the original British article in Columbia Heights.  The newest addition to the genre, Againn, brings some welcome flavor downtown.

To the uninitiated, Againn may seem like more of the same.  Couple the popularity of the concept with a name that appears to be a misspelling of “again” and you’ve got a recipe for an easy joke.  But step inside for a bite and it’s easy to see that Againn is an original among its peers.

Just past the hostess stand, on your way to the bar, you’ll arrive at the raw bar.  Try to get by without drooling over some freshly shucked oysters.  Or settle in for the long haul with an aptly named Pint of Prawns (peeled shrimp served in a pint glass with lemon and Marie Rose sauce).  But don’t get too distracted…the ‘pub’ part of ‘gastropub’ still awaits.

We checked out Againn with some friends who appreciate a good pint – an arrangement I highly recommend.  Some highlights among our appetizers, entrees and desserts – and a chance for you to check out Againn for yourself – after the jump. (more…)

What could be a better comfort on a cold winter night than deliciously prepared French food in a beautiful setting? Experiencing it during Restaurant Week for $35.10 per person. Previous attempts to visit Adour had been foiled by illness, meaning Chef Ducasse’s restaurant lingered on our must-visit-SOON list for longer than we liked. When the Restaurant Week participant list came out, Mike jumped on a prime Saturday night reservation.

Adour sets the right tone as soon as you enter the bar area. I admit I am a sucker for a killer interior design. Done right, it sets expectations for the entire evening telling diners exactly what they should anticipate for their palates, their service, and their wallets. I’m not loyal to a specific style. Be it the old world coziness of Tabard Inn or 1789 or the sleek sexiness of Sei, distinct design tells me the restaurant has put extra thought into the full dining experience. Designed by David Rockwell, Adour sends diners the message that wine is an important facet of their experience (witness the glass wall that allows diners to peer right into the cellar) and cuisine served will be modern with the eyes of the classic French techniques watching over it (enjoy the interplay of sleek, masculine furniture and banquettes underneath gorgeous rococo ceilings).

Upon seating, we were quickly greeted by our deft waiter who welcomed us to the restaurant with the confident reserve of an industry professional, guiding us through the menu options for the evening. Frankly, the Restaurant Week menu options were wholly uninspired compared to their a la carte cousins. Of the three entree dishes available one was a chicken breast and another a beef short rib. My spirits lifted as soon as we were greeted with a plate of peppery gougeres – the rich man’s cheesy poofs! – which was shortly followed by demitasse cups of a robust pumpkin soup. If these tastes were  a sign of things to come, perhaps the limited menu would work out well.

Dining experiences and how we got Restaurant Week pimp-slapped after the jump. (more…)

Kudos to Restaurant Nora which scored the Michelle Obama birthday dinner this year. We heartily agree with the location choice. 
Attention eco-conscious seafood eaters: Seafood Watch added U.S.-farmed Coho salmon, Alaskan wild-caught pollock and U.S.-farmed freshwater prawns to its list of sustainable seafood choices. 
Arugula Files makes a leek and goat cheese galette
The Taco Bell founder passed away this week. 
Gansie at Endless Simmer wants to be down with smoking a white fish. Should we loop her in to the Big Green Egg mafia?  
San Francisco vendors place a renewed interest in artisan, sustainable bacon. I didn’t know bacon was considered unsustainable?  
18th and Swine posts some competition-level recipes for BBQ rubs and sauces.

Specially trained dogs in Oregon sniff out ripe truffles. 
Want to see how DC elite dined? Things That Inspire put together a great collection of Kennedy-owned homes from the DC area, including kitchens and dining rooms.  Good news – some of the homes are for sale! 
BYT and Thrillist are giving away a fully stocked bar.  Sign up for a chance to win.
White Castle will be taking reservations for Valentine’s Day.  
Candy hearts, everyone’s least favorite Valentine’s Day candy, are adding a social media message to the hearts this year. 
Going Green DC gives us the lowdown on organic cocktails.

A few weeks ago I coldly abandoned Mike in DC for a quick girls’ getaway in San Francisco with two great friends BabeBQ and The Librarian. It was the first visit to San Francisco for both of them. Giving the uninitiated a tour of my favorite city is no small feat. Type A geeks like me don’t just wing it. We spend weeks plotting out itineraries, checking lists, creating back up plans for unbearably rainy weather.  Touristy or not, some activities can’t be ignored for first-timers. I wanted to be sure we tried a few more insider options, too. (Sure the cable cars are nice but did you know you can ride an 1930s Italian streetcar into the Castro?)

This philosophy went double for food. I knew certain cozy homeruns would make our agenda, namely Cha Cha Cha’s and Crepes on Cole which BabeBQ declared “the perfect neighborhood breakfast spot.” Except I didn’t want to limit our palates to tried and true favorites. I was ready for a little strange on the menu.

Acme Bread Company at the Ferry Building
No food sojurn to San Francisco is complete without paying homage to the Ferry Building. What was once a pass-through warehouse for tourists heading to Sausalito and commuters going home to Marin County is now a delicious destination. The building hosts San Francisco staples Cowgirl Creamery and the Slanted Door as well as less known options like Boccalone Salumeri (boasting “tasty salted pig parts”) and Far West Funghi, a must-visit for any mushroom lover.

Taking advantage of our DC-based internal clocks, BabeBQ and I took an early morning walk over to the Ferry Building for breakfast. We wandered through the vendor hallway, taking in the options as proprieters rattled their doors open. In the end, we were both drawn to the same thing: freshly baked bread from Acme Bread Company. The Acme Bread Compnay is a Berekley-based bread institution in the Bay Area, frequently credited for leading the artisinal bread revolution. The Ferry Building outpost carries the full selection of Acme bread and we lingered over baguettes, croissants and other yeasty delicacies before settling on a perfect small round of sourdough bread. We paired our loaves with ruby-red, sweet organic strawberries from Farm Fresh to You, a gourmet grocery store that seems tailor-made for yuppie picnic baskets, and found a bench outside in the early morning mist.

The bread, baked with a golden, crispy crust and pliant, still-warm, tangy white middle, was perhaps the single best way to start a vacation day. It was amazing we were civilized enough to eat with our hands rather than dive face first into the world’s best comfort food. We tore into our breakfast as rush hour approached and commuters streamed past us, fresh off ferries from Marin County. “You know,” BabeBQ said between bites, “I always see people having a leisurely breakfast or coffee on a weekday and wonder who they are and why they aren’t headed into work like me. It’s nice to be on this side for a change.” I couldn’t have agreed more. 

Acme Bread Company
1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111
Acme Bread Company on Urbanspoon

After the jump: Dim sum in Chinatown, Italian in North Beach, and what Mike was most jealous he missed. (more…)

Last year, Tim Carman over at the Washington City Paper called attention to an often overlooked holiday: Meat Week.  So he did what any self-respecting barbecue lover would do.  He spread the word, inviting anyone who was interested to join him in a one-night celebration of the holiday at Urban BBQ in Rockville.

We had a lot of fun and enjoyed some surprisingly good ‘cue.  And, as is often the case with good barbecue, that first taste just wasn’t enough.  I wanted the full Meat Week experience.  I promised myself that when the time came for Meat Week 2010, I would make sure Washington DC was represented with a Meat Week chapter of its own.

The time is now.

In just ten days, Meat Week 2010 begins.  And Washington is no longer cueless.

1949 American Meat Institute advertisement

So what is Meat Week?  Born in Tallahassee, Meat Week is a festival of smoked meats.  For eight days, participants pay homage to that most original culinary combination – meat and fire.  Local chapters organize (I use the term loosely) a get-together at a different barbecue establishment each night for a week.  At the end of the week stories are swapped, awards are given, and plans are made to do it all again the next year.

Here in Washington, as any fan of barbecue will tell you, the real challenge lies in site selection.  We’re not exactly blessed with a plethora of authentic smokehouse options, and those that we do have often try too hard to please palates that grew up with ALL of the various barbecue traditions (Kansas City, Memphis, Texas, the Carolinas, etc).  As a result, we’ve got a fair amount of mediocre ‘cue but not a lot of really good stuff.

So I was careful as I planned out our inaugural Meat Week agenda.  I reached out to several close friends, all of whom have significant experience with barbecue – smoking it, eating it, judging it.  I also tried to keep all of the establishments Metro-accessible or inside the Beltway.  The resulting schedule has a little bit of something for everyone: two establishments in Maryland (Rockville), two in Northern Virginia (Courthouse and Alexandria) and three within the District itself (Glover Park, Penn Quarter and Brentwood).

And I’m especially pleased to announce that one night of Meat Week will feature a real treat – a special sneak preview of an upcoming barbecue establishment put together just for Meat Weekers.

Check out the full schedule – and the special event – after the jump. (more…)

Happy rainy Sunday.  Wet Sundays like today are meant for nothing more than baking and inhaling your new goodies. Going to a bar in the afternoon is also a good alternative. Have at it.

Mrs. Wheelbarrow takes a moment to reflect on the earthquake in Haiti and life-opening experience as a teenage volunteer in there many moons ago. 
Johnna Knows Good Food posts a recipe for Haitian Beyen, a traditional dessert. 
Are the days numbered for the old-school waiters who memorize your order? Do you care? Usually when I don’t see a waiter writing down the tables orders I brace myself for mistakes. 
Get ready for some sweet decadence with Biscuits and Such’s marshmallow-meringue sweet potato pie. Then call your dentist.  

Mayor Fenty’s office launched Date Night DC, a website dedicated to their “28 day stimulus plan for love and relationships,” helmed by Dr. Ruth (yes, THAT Dr. Ruth). The site includes date ideas and deals on restaurants in the city. 
Trying to get healthy? Check out the 11 best foods you aren’t eating.
Girl Meets Food educates us on the true story of the 1919 Boston Molassacre, which unleashed 14,000 tons of molasses on the streets of Boston. 
Young & Hungry gives us a glimpse into Masala  Art
Yarrrrrr. The Argonaut is kicking off a shrimp feast/pirate party.

Click on the image to go to our Google map that locates every restaurant participating in Alexandria's Second Annual Restaurant Week.

By now, you’re probably enjoying the fruits of your diligent preparation – passing by the lesser Restaurant Week participants with a self-satisfied smile as you settle in for some of the best $35.10 meals Washington has to offer.  If only it didn’t have to end, right?

Good news – it doesn’t.  At least not for another week or so!  As they did last year, Alexandria restaurants have joined forces to put on their very own version of Restaurant Week.  From this Friday until the following Sunday, more than 50 Alexandria establishments will be offering one of three deals:

  • $35 prix-fixe dinners
  • $35 dinners for two
  • $3.50 sweet treats

We’ve put together a map that lists all of the participants, like we do for DC Restaurant Week.  After the jump, a few thoughts about taking full advantage. (more…)

Next Page »