July 2010


Check out our map of sites associated with Top Chef DC, updated each week

Top Chef is playing with our emotions.  Or at least they’re trying to, though many Washingtonians seem less than enthralled by the current season despite its being filmed right here in our backyard.  After a week where there was next to no Washington connection, we’re back in full force with a lobbyist-influenced Quickfire and a “power lunch” elimination challenge, both of which featured famous-for-DC types.

So why doesn’t this season have folks on the edges of their seats?  This may be Top Chef’s most diverse pool of cheftestants, but they still come across as pretty vanilla.  The field is still too unwieldy to care about everyone, and the Angelo vs. Kenny drama really isn’t all that compelling.

But we here at Capital Spice are watching with a different eye, looking out for the ways in which the producers remind viewers that they spent six weeks or so filming in the Nation’s Capital this spring.  The clips of landmarks and monuments help, sure, but we all know that DC provides near limitless fodder for challenge themes and pun-heavy episode titles.

This week we opened with a challenge that did a great job of marrying “official Washington” with Top Chef in the form of a “Toothpick Rule” challenge judged by a Member of Congress.  Afterwards, it was on to one of Washington’s storied white tablecloth restaurants, the Palm, for a Power Lunch served to a Senator, a top lobbyist and a host of NBC hosts.

After the jump find out more about the Toothpick Rule (we’ll keep it short, we promise) and all the special guests (more…)

Jennifer Weiner, an insanely talented and successful novelist, once described her daily writing routine: A nanny comes to her home in Philadelphia every day to watch her daughter while Weiner walks around the corner to her favorite coffeeshop to write for about 4 straight hours. End workday. As soon as I heard her describe this my head snapped up and I said to myself “that’s what I want.” There is a lot implied with this type of workday. First of all, she’s successful enough to write full time, not squeeze it around a 40+ hour desk jockey work week like most writers I know. Secondly, she can afford regular help based on her writing income. And, perhaps most notable to food and coffee devotees, she lives within walking distance of a coffeeshop that is awesome enough to draw her in every single day.

Regardless of one’s career aspirations, that third piece really hits home for a lot of us.  An area isn’t a neighborhood unless there is a destination-worthy coffeehouse nestled around some corner.  I challenge you to name a great neighborhood in DC that doesn’t have a coffee shop of pride. Eastern Market? Peregrine. Clarendon? Northside Social. DuPont? Teaism. H St NE? Take your pick of Sidamo, Sova, or Ebenezers.

Lately we’ve been exploring what other neighborhoods have to offer so no matter where you go, you’ll be able to caffeinate yourself at a moment’s notice.

photo courtesy of The V Word

Tryst – Adam’s Morgan
Let me hook my thumbs into my suspenders and remind you that back in myyyy day, Tryst was just about the only coffee/lounge game in town unless you considered Starbucks or its cousins an option. Tryst is the grandaddy of the DC coffeehouse scene. Like a hipster church, you can mark your weekly calendar by the Sunday morning gathering of young urbanites sipping coffee and enjoying a pastry along with their free wi-fi. Some of them may have even been there the previous evening, when Tryst turns from Friends-style coffehouse to casual lounge with cocktails and light food on the menu. Service can struggle at times – not surprising considering the ebb and flow of the crowd – but Tryst continues to serve as a happy starting point for many an epic night out in Adam’s Morgan.
Tryst on Urbanspoon

Three more coffeehouses after the jump. (more…)

Check out our map of sites associated with Top Chef DC, updated each week

Yeah, so…

I should have guessed that the whole “actually focus on the foods and chefs of the place where you’re filming” thing from last week was going to be short-lived.

It’s a shame, too, as the Cold War-inspired elimination challenge would have provided a great opportunity to feature a location like the International Spy Museum or the Embassy of the Russian Federation (with its strategic location overlooking all of official Washington).  It could have put the contestants on one of the highly informative and entertaining spy tours that are run by individuals with varying degrees of connection to the events they’re describing (though the producers score points for the use of the USS Sequoia in a cameo role).   And I suspect they could have found a chef a little closer to Washington than Miami to judge the episode.

As a result, this week’s map has just one addition.  But if you’re looking to enhance your own Cold War-related experience while you’re in Washington we’ve got a few more suggestions for you after the jump. (more…)

If the number of visitors to Capital Spice who have been checking out our first look at We the Pizza is any indication, there will be lines for days as soon as they’re open.

There’s just one thing…that won’t be today.

We just heard from the Mendelsohns that they’ve had to push back their opening one more time.  Instead of opening today at lunchtime, as previously reported just about everywhere, they’re planning to open on Friday, July 23rd.

And if you thought the line was going to be long today, don’t forget to factor in the casual nature of most Congressional offices on Fridays in the summer.  Chances are there will be just a few more folks willing to brave the lines for a taste of Spike, Mike and Brian’s pizzas, wings and sandwiches.

We’ll keep you posted if we hear of any further developments.

Surely you remember that…

When we reached out to the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington for confirmation earlier in the week, they asked us to take down the post until Friday.  We agreed, and I called back this morning hoping to get the official word on Summer Restaurant Week.

They couldn’t confirm because of technical difficulties with the website, and I completely understand why they wouldn’t confirm until the site is live and accessible by all.

In their opinion, releasing the dates and the restaurants all at one time through one outlet gives everyone involved in Restaurant Week – the participating restaurants AND the diners – the best opportunity to make the most out of Restaurant Week.  There’s lots ofanticipation leading up to the announcement of each Restaurant Week, and they try to make sure that everyone has an equal chance to take full advantage of this great deal.

Considering the fact that we’ve talked about the strategy of speculative reservations before, that makes a lot of sense.

But we here at Capital Spice are focused on doing what’s best for you, our readers.  To that end, we’re sticking with our intel that Restaurant Week will run from Monday, August 16 through Sunday, August 22 – with thanks M. Brighton, who pointed out that six days do not a Restaurant Week make and whose comment prompted us to reach out
to RAMW in the first place.

As I said before, the folks at the Restaurant Association could not confirm this in advance of their announcement press release, so take this with a grain or two of salt and use the information (or don’t) as you see fit.

Check out our map of sites associated with Top Chef DC, updated each week

Finally!  An entire episode that represents some of the best of the Washington area’s foodshed.  From Maryland blue crabs to organic and humanely raised meats from Ayrshire Farms, this week viewers got a chance to see the kind of local bounty that we enjoy in and around Washington.

No political puns in the challenge, though there may have been a comment or two about getting crabs, because most chefs are just grown-up fifteen year-old boys.  No “official Washington” guest judges: instead, an honest-to-goodness chef from one of the area’s most famous restaurants. And no flags-and-Americana backdrop, though Ayrshire is hardly your average working farm.

If past seasons are precedent, we’ll probably want to enjoy this while it lasts.  Host cities are rarely more than a backdrop for the challenges, and there are too many DC celebrities (Speaker Pelosi! Joe Scarborough! Buzz Aldrin?) yet to appear whose names were leaked in the preseason press release.

After the jump, we’ve got details on who, where and what you saw this episode as well as a suggestion for a great place to get all-you-can-eat blue crabs. (more…)

<<EDIT 7/13/10 9:49 AM – Sorry guys, we jumped the gun on this one.  Keep an eye out for our Google map when the time comes, but for now we’ve pulled this post at the request of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, as they wouldn’t confirm any dates.>>

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