November 2010

Posting this just in time to, well, either make you feel smug or feel annoyed that you only got a regular ole frozen organic turkey.

Amalah shares her experience buying her turkey directly from the farm in MD.

And by direct from the farm, I mean pointing at a currently living turkey in a very Julius Caesar bring-me-the-head-of-that-one-it-displeases-me kind of way and having it sent to The Barn.

Doesn’t get fresher than that! Gobble gobble!


amalah . com: Turkey Run.

Picture it: A cold, dark weeknight. Mike brought home takeout from a local Chinese restaurant. We’d ordered from there a few times before. It’s… your basic Chinese place. Serviceable. It makes our speed dial by virtue of being in their delivery zone. We were just settling in with the delivery, food unpacked and steaming. The baby is asleep and both of us are hungry after a long day at work. And then Mike spots it. Good old Periplaneta americana, floating in the broth.

When dining out, we all labor under some ignorance-is-bliss policies. I mean, of course that pretty waitress thinks you are hilarious. Why no, the chef doesn’t mind making those 3 substitutions on your dish in the middle of the Saturday night crush. In fact, he doesn’t think a quattro formaggio should have 4 cheeses either! It’s just overkill! The myth of the pristine kitchen is a major diner delusion. I expect a reasonable restaurant to keep it’s kitchen clean, sure. Food at the right temperature, check. When in doubt, throw it out. A mop-down, wipe-up, once over every night. But eat-off-the-floor pristine? You are high. And one of the scariest offenses – the dreaded insect – is likely more common in every restaurant kitchen than we may like to think. Plus, Americans eat more bugs than they realize.

Still. There is a difference between accepting this on a hypothetical level and being faced with gross insect evidence swimming in your soup. Mike called the restaurant to argue for a refund.

Would we like another bowl of soup? No… it’s going to be from the same pot as this one, isn’t it?

Is there something wrong with the rest of the food? Not that we can see. But we aren’t eating it.

Fine. Then we’re taking all the food back if you want a refund. Fine. You do that.

And they did. This is where a story would normally end with a grossed-out customer erasing a mediocre Chinese place from her cell phone. But this is actually where it got interesting.

About an hour later, we received a phone call.  It was the owner. She wasn’t working that evening but she heard about what happened and wanted to speak with us. She is horrified. She is so sorry. This has never happened before. She runs a clean kitchen, we are welcome to stop by the restaurant any time and she will walk us back there herself. The entire pot of soup has been thrown out and everything is scrubbed down. Can she please send us a fresh batch of dinner? No charge, of course.

We said no thank you.  We’d made other dinner arrangements by then. It was nice of her to take the step to call. It was really more than we expected.

The next day, there was a knock at our door. It was the owner. She came by to apologize in person. They had been in the neighborhood for years and, she swore, this has never happened before. Her customers are like family. We can walk through the kitchen any time, it is very clean. She understands if we never give her business again but please, here is a $50 gift certificate to the restaurant. She hopes we will come back. She is so terribly sorry.

I. was. floored.

So question to you, food blog reader: Would you go back?



By now it’s likely that pretty much anyone who has ever gone elbows-deep in drawn butter at the Quarterdeck has heard that the historic crab-feast venue is closing due to failed lease negotiations.  The story broke with the folks over at TBD and has been expanded upon by the Washington Business Journal and ArlNow, who have printed an excerpt from Lou Gatti’s email to the Radnor/Ft. Myer Heights Civic Association.

Here at Capital Spice, we were eager to find out more about what would become of one of our favorite places to bring out-of-town guests, so we reached out to Haig Paul, the property owner, for comment.  He was unaware that word had gotten out, but he was willing to go on the record with us about what the future holds.  According to Mr. Paul:

“There is a change coming.   We’re still in the process of lease negotiations, so I can’t go into too many details at this point.  The only thing I know for certain is that a restaurant will remain in operation in some form [at 1200 Fort Myer].”

When I asked if the new restaurant would represent a fundamental change away from Quarterdeck’s most popular offerings, Paul didn’t seem to think so.  “The Quarterdeck is a niche type restaurant – it’s unique with a very steady and loyal clientele.  I would like to see it continue in its current format.  It won’t become something radically different.”

It is just about summer time in South America. A wine tour in sunny Argentina sounds just fine to me.

Santa, are you reading this?

Argentina’s Napa Valley –

Photo courtesy Zest Bistro

This weekend, CHAMPS (Capitol Hill’s Chamber of Commerce) held their second annual “Hilly” awards honoring local businesses on the Hill and H Street, NE.  A few days earlier, I had back-to-back conversations about Barracks Row and the changes it has seen in the past decade.  The combination made me realize just how many new restaurants I’ve been visiting on 8th Street in the past few months.

Of the contenders, the one I’ve found myself drawn to most often is Zest Bistro. The decor is clean and bright.  The food delivers consistently.  But it’s the service that makes me most comfortable suggesting Zest for a working lunch over and over.

Zest is located at the far south of Barracks Row, literally across the street from the Marine Corps barracks.  As such, it’s a bit removed from the recent explosion of new establishments closer to the Metro and Eastern Market.  It’s well situated to appeal to crowds coming from Nationals Stadium after a game, but you’ve got to be seeking it out if you’re coming from the north.  And you should.

What sets Zest apart (besides geography) after the jump. (more…)

Interesting primer on the benefits of hunted and farmed game meat.  A co-worker of mine is married to a hunter and he actually hunts bear (!!). But this isn’t about a fancy rug for the cabin: he brings the meat home and she freezes it to feed the family in the winter. Apparently her bear lasagna is pretty tasty!

Trying out game meat.

The amazing retro-airline ticket menu at DC-3

When I say “hot dog,” what do you picture?  The frank and the bun are pretty much universal, but what else is on there – did you “drag it through the garden?”  Are there poppy seeds on the bun (or could it even be a pretzel roll)?  Is the dog long and thin, like the ones they offer at Nathan’s on Coney Island, bright red like a Kayem, or is it more like a sausage?  Did you reflexively go to a half-smoke from Ben’s Chili Bowl?

We don’t tend to think about these regional differences when we’re grilling on the Fourth of July, but there’s a wide world of wieners out there as you make your way from coast to coast.  Starting tomorrow today, you can eat your way from Maine to California without ever leaving Barracks Row, as DC-3 opens for business at 11 AM.

This new fast-casual concept from the guys who brought you Matchbox and Ted’s Bulletin is banking on hot dogs as the next big thing.  But don’t think of DC-3 as a sit-down street cart or even a direct competitor to Ben’s.  With their complete commitment to a “vintage aviation” concept that starts with a Douglas Commercial-3 (get it?) propeller on the wall when you enter and continues all the way down to the ticket-jacket menus, DC-3 is a full-on restaurant that just happens to focus on hot dogs from across the country.

We’ve been talking with the team for months now – after a friend heard us raving about Chicago’s Hot Doug’s he tipped us off to this work-in-progress.  When Ted’s launched with a DC-3 teaser on the newsprint menu, we smiled and eagerly awaited the arrival.  Now the wait is over.

A “taxi down the runway” look at what you’ll be able to order after the jump. (more…)

It’s been almost two years since the Fojol Brothers burst onto the DC vending scene with their take on Indian cuisine.  Their butter chicken, lentils, and curry are fresh and flavorful, and the mango lassipop is a favorite warm weather treat.  But the Fojols are a nomadic people, and Merlindia has open borders and neighboring lands…

When the Fojol mobile carnival paid a visit to Capitol Hill just before the Curbside Cookoff, I had a chance to chat with Dingo (one of the ‘brothers’).  We talked about the diversity of food truck concepts that have launched over the past few months and the city council’s actions.  But there was one thing he told me that particularly piqued my interest.  Dingo suggested that if everything went smoothly we’d be seeing another Fojol Brothers truck on the street before too long.

I pressed him for details, but he demurred.  All he would tell me is that the truck would reflect the spirit of Merlindian enthusiasm, if not the same cuisine.  I was intrigued, and impatient to see what would come.

Well the wait is over.

On Saturday, as I was scouting the vending options along Independence Avenue near the Stewart/Colbert rally, I walked past the new Dangerously Delicious Pie Truck and came upon not one, but two Fojol Brothers trucks parked together!  A new set of Fojol Brothers have made their way to Washington.  They hail from Benethiopia, a land known for its spicy and savory dishes as well as the spongy injera bread upon which they’re served.

A sampling of Benethiopian cuisine after the jump. (more…)