December 2010

At Capital Spice, we are firmly of the opinion that bubbly need not be reserved for special occasions.  Champagne and sparkling wines are a go-to to cap off a solid work week, sip alongside some salty appetizers, or kick back with the latest episode of Top Chef All-Stars.

For a splurge, we love J Vineyards, out of Napa, and of course Veuve Clicquot.

We’re all over the map for the everyday sparklers. Gruet from New Mexico is a solid choice. Check out The Stir’s rundown of their favorites under $25.

Best Champagnes Under $25: Surprising Taste Test Results! | The Stir.

Twice a year, the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) <<EDIT: and the folks over at Destination DC – sorry for the omission!>> give DC diners a good incentive to head out and try one of those places they’ve been meaning to check out: Restaurant Week.  Whether you love these discount dining days or hate them, it’s a safe bet you’re just as quick to check out who’s participating as soon as you hear the next round is public.

Well it’s time.  Just a few minutes ago, RAMW posted the announcement of the dates and participants for DC Winter Restaurant Week 2011 to the official Restaurant Week site.  This year the foodfest will run from Monday, January 17th through Sunday, January 23rd and more than 210 restaurants have already signed on.  OpenTable may have spilled the beans on the dates a bit early, having updated the header on the Restaurant Week page last week before it was officially supposed to talk about 2011, but otherwise RAMW has done an admirable job of keeping the details of Restaurant Week under wraps.

As we’ve done in the past, we wanted to help you visualize just what 210+ restaurants look like – not to mention map out your plan of attack.  Click on the image below to go to our semi-annual, color-coded Google map to figure out where you’ll be lunching and dining from the 17th through the 23rd.  And be on the lookout for some of our fellow bloggers’ usual contributions, like DC Foodies’ and Dining in DC’s menu roundups and lists of restaurants that will be extending their deals even further into the new year.

If you’ve got additional questions – like “Why isn’t that restaurant I’ve been dying to try on the list?” – visit the official site and ask the folks at RAMW.  They anticipate additional participants between now and Restaurant Week, so be on the lookout for updates.

Click on the image to go to our Google map that locates every restaurant participating in DC's Winter Restaurant Week 2011.

If you’ve had a chance to check out the first two weeks of the new Top Chef season, then you know that the producers have chosen to bring back competitors from each of the first seven seasons who came *this* close to winning it all.  This “All-Star” season, set in New York City, pits some fan favorites (and some favorite villains) against each other in a rematch to see who has grown the most since their initial Top Chef appearance.

Here in Washington, we’re lucky enough to have THREE local competitors vying for our slavish loyalty.  In order of original appearance, they are:

  • Spike Mendelsohn (Season 4 – Chicago), chef/owner of Good Stuff Eatery and We, the Pizza.  In his first season, Spike came across as…arrogant.  Has wisdom come with age?
  • Carla Hall (Season 5 – New York), owner of Alchemy by Carla Hall.  She’s transitioning from catering to gourmet sweets and savories.  Hootie hoo!
  • Mike Isabella (Season 6 – Vegas), who has moved on from his position at Zaytinya and is in the process of opening his own place, Graffiato.  He had trouble with leeks last time around (what…that’s NOT what you remember about him?).

Over the past two weeks, we’ve had a chance to chat with each of them.  We asked about what they’re doing professionally, the differences between their first appearances and this season, and what made them decide to subject themselves to the pressure cooker competition again.  Sure, a victory would be big for any of them, but each brought a sense of perspective to the show that they may not have had at first.

Check out some of our conversations with the cheftestants – including big news from each about the directions their projects are heading – after the jump. (more…)

Looks like everyone is getting in on the real estate action.  Cork wine bar on 14th St is hosting a gingerbread house decorating party on Saturday, December 18 from 12 to 2pm. Are there prizes for whose looks the most like a DC house? I’d like to build a Clarendon-style bungalow but a Cap Hill Federal Rowhouse would be probably get a better return on gumdrops.

image courtesy of Alamdeda Info

$30 will get you a gingerbread house kit including “the gingerbread foundation and all decorating materials.” I’m a little rusty on my gingerbread materials but I’m guessing that includes baked gingerbread, gumdrops and whatever sticky stuff people use to make it all stay together. Oh, and complimentary hot chocolate, cider, and cookies will be passed around as guests build their Gingerbread McMansions.

Reserve your  Spaces must be reserved by December 13 by emailing



Attenti0n oenophiles! Today’s Groupon features a good deal on a wines of the world class from the Washington Wine Academy. Classes are available at $32 each (typically $68).

This can be a great intro to new/old world wines or maybe a nice holiday ‘date gift’ for you and a friend.

Washington Wine Academy Deal of the Day | Groupon Washington DC.

It’s easy to imagine a certain arrogance on the part of New York- and Los Angeles-based chains when they open an outpost here in Washington.  “We’ll show them how to REALLY do <insert trendy food here>,” we can hear the smug CEO chuckle as he maps out his next conquest.  Maybe it’s an inferiority complex on our part, or a recognition of the fact that we’ve still got a way to go to be recognized as a real food city.

Whatever the reason, the reality rarely fits our expectations.  DC establishments usually take on their own character, diverging in ways both simple and significant from their origins.  And they can actually bring new takes to even the most saturated concepts.

Like cupcakes.

When Crumbs Bake Shop opened across from H&M on 11th Street, it caught its share of flack for coming into a market that we all know is more than covered when it comes to cupcakes.  We’ve even got a reality TV show based on a DC cupcake shop, for crying out loud!  What could these New Yorkers bring to the field that we hadn’t already seen?

As it turns out, they fill an interesting and unexpected niche.  Check it out after the jump.