Dinner Parties


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…)

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On the eve of President Obama’s inauguration last year, top chefs, writers and artists from all over America descended on Washington to put on Art. Food. Hope. They served up a dozen amazing meals, inspired numerous conversations about what the new administration could do to show its commitment to sustainable agriculture, healthy food culture, and solutions to hunger.  Needless to say, the dinners were completely sold out, and they raised more than $100,000 for local charities like Martha’s Table and the DC Central Kitchen.  As luck would have it, we here at Capital Spice were even lucky enough to be at the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market that Sunday morning when Alice Waters and several other participating chefs stopped by to pick up some ingredients.

Ris Lacoste, Barton Seaver and Alice Waters with representatives from FreshFarm Markets, Martha's Table and DC Central Kitchen

They figured it worked so well last time, why not try it again this year?  In the same spirit as last year’s event, Jose Andres, Alice Waters and more than two dozen local and national chefs will be working to put on 15 dinners on Sunday, January 24th.  To make it even more interesting, this year they’ve added a “Sunday Night Sips” cocktail reception to precede the “Sunday Night Suppers.”

With seating at each dinner limited to 20 guests, intimate doesn’t even begin to describe this.  These are basically command performances by most of Washington’s most celebrated chefs, with a handful of imports from as far away as San Francisco thrown in for good measure.  Four courses and conversation, with the goal of continuing all of the positive impact that came out of last year.

Have dinner plans for Sunday, the 24th yet?  Check out the list of participating chefs after the jump and get some more information on how you can get involved. (more…)

Sometimes the best traditions around Thanksgiving aren’t just the food, but what happens around the table once the food has been cleared away.

In my family, the means an insanely competitive game of Spoons among the cousins. Spoons is a card game that is kind of like musical chairs. Start with one deck of cards. Everyone gets four cards.

Put spoons in the middle of the table, using one less spoon that the number of people playing.

 

 

 

 

Start passing cards one at a time. The first person to get four of a kind grabs the first spoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the first spoon is claimed, everyone else has their chance to grab a spoon.  Chaos ensues.  Polite families take one and get out of the way. My family? We scatter them to the four winds. Thrown under the table, into other rooms, into the laps of competitors. Its much more fun that way.

The odd person out who does not get a spoon  – because you put down one less than the number of people playing – gets a letter by their name to spell out S-P-O-O-N or J-A-C-K-A-S-S or whatever you want.  But teasing the loser isn’t the fun part. The fun part is watching people completely panic trying to get the last spoon.

We are not above trying to steal them out of someone else’s hand.                                                                                                      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WARNING: This has led to several scars and lost feeling in my pinky for a few days. I got that damn spoon, though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos courtesy of Katie Barnes, my insanely talented cousin. She wisely decides to record, rather than play, Spoons. Her hands are remarkably scar-free.

happyhour

In journalism, two is a coincidence and three’s a trend.

We mentioned it last week, but it definitely bears repeating: The third monthly DC Food Bloggers’ Happy Hour is taking place tonight.

You joined us at Poste and showed us just how many Washingtonians are writing about their cooking, dining and drinking experiences.

You followed that up with beer and Scotch eggs at CommonWealth last month, keeping the enthusiasm going.

The third time’s the charm.

Come out and spend a few hours with us at the Black Squirrel in Adams Morgan.  They boast impressive lists of beers, wine and absinthe, and they’ve got a couple of beer-based cocktails that are worth a try, as well.  The menu favors pub grub, with plenty of warm and comforting favorites to chase away the chill.

We’ll be holding our happy hour upstairs from 6 to 8 PM.  If you didn’t realize the Black Squirrel had an upstairs, don’t feel bad.  The space is a recent addition.

As always, your hosts for the evening include us, Mary from the Arugula Files, Jenna from Modern Domestic, Amelia from Gradually Greener, Cathy from We Love DC and Orr the Beerspotter.  Lauren from Capital Cooking joined the planning team this time around, and Lisa from Dining in DC has helped to spread the word.

We’ve already got more than 30 responses for this one, so you know it’s going to be a good time.  Check out a list of anticipated attendees after the jump, and let us know in the comments if you’re planning to attend.  We’re hoping to make this our biggest FoBloHaHo yet (that abbreviation could probably use some work…). (more…)

With the temperatures dropping and damp air outpacing autumn’s crispness, we’ve been in the mood for a hearty Baked Mussels 003seafood dish. While some entertaining hosts disagree, I think there is no better reason to try a new dish than friends coming over for dinner. Besides, Itty Bitty Betty and The Bacon Terrorist are always game. As friends with a mutual appreciation for food and cooking, they are a forgiving audience if things don’t go as planned.

Regardless my hand immediately reached for one of our foolproof cookbooks From the Earth to the Table. This wine country cuisine, whole-foods focused cookbook has been the source of some our favorite meals including our favorite spicy tri-color tomato soup and ricotta and herb tart.  The night’s beverage list was weighted heavily on beers, making baked mussels with serrano chiles and fresh mozzarella the perfect choice.

For avid shellfish fans, Mike and I rarely cook them at home instead preferring to leave the shucking and serving to the professionals. I was nervous about giving our friends food poisoning with my amateur shellfish ways. Still, mussels are reputed to be easy to prep and spotting a bad mussel is pretty straightforward  (anything with a closed shell after cooking time is complete). I soldiered on.

results and recipe after the jump! (more…)

LogoATTENTION BRIDEZILLAS:

After taking a highly scientific survey of my engaged and married friends, the wedding priority list appears to be:

 

  1. The successful exchange of “I Dos”
  2. Look amazing
  3. Have a reception so legendary your friends talk about it for years and simultaneously hate you because they know they’ll never possibly top it

I’m pleased to share a new weapon in your wedding planning arsenal, helping you attack #3 with a vengence.  endives

Jose Andres Catering now brings the magic and whimsy that made the chef famous to catereed events. Jose Andres Catering offers four distinct menus: Mediterranean – think Zaytinya’s classic and contemporary mix of Greek and Lebanese cuisine; Mexican – with bright flavor combinations like jicama wrapped tuna ceviche; Spanish – featuring classic flavors  you may recognize from Cafe Atlantico plus a paella dish the width of a hot tub; and Jose’s Way, the closest approximation many of your guests may get to tasting the genius of minibar starring the potato mousse and Jose’s take on the Philly Cheese Steak.

Thinking of a signature cocktail? How about a Magic Mojito from the Jose’s Way menu. Guests can ogle as cocktails are mixed and poured over a cloud of cotton candy, which replaces the sugar cane in the drink.  Further sweetening the deal, Chef Andres partnered with notable Ridgewells Catering for service, ensuring a smooth experience for your event. 

Jose Andres Catering
5525 Dorsey Lane
Bethesda MD 20816
(301) 652-1898

There are some events where the meal is good despite a shabby setting. And other meals where the atmosphere dominates the menu. Then there are the rare dinners where the environment, the company, and the food is so gorgeous and delicious it all feels like a magazine airbrushed fantasy. Enter Outstanding in the Field.

Outstanding in the Fieldis the brainchild of Jim Denevan, a chef, artist and onetime forced farm laborer (courtesy of his big brother). In 1999 while living and working in Santa Cruz, CA, Denevan got the idea to bring diners, their meal, and chefs closer to its origins by dining on a farm. After all, what could be more gorgeous than dining al fresco in the Santa Cruz redwoods? Well, perhaps Ayrshire Farm in Upperville, VA. Outstanding in the Field hosted three dinners over Labor Day weekend  at the historic Ayrshire Farm. Chefs for the dinners featured local talent such as Bryan Moscatello of Zola and Potenza and Robert Townsend from Ayrshire Farms. We specifically selected the Sunday evening dinner for its chef: Anthony Chittum of Vermillion.

Outstanding in the Field 048As a square-state kid, I’ve set foot on a farm or two in my day. So heading through the rolling verdant countryside of Virginia, I was anticipating a bucolic, natural setting mingled with an honest days work that only a working farm  can create. What I did not anticipate is the ever-expansive grandiosity of Ayrshire Farm. From long wooded drive to gorgeous stone house to a stable that puts the chicest Chevy Chase home to shame, this is no ordinary farm.

Mike, Itty Bitty Betty, Bacon Terrorist and I walked up the drive trying to keep our awe in check, lest we be kicked out for being too middle class. I turned to Bacon Terrorist, “You know how people talk about the big real estate dreams they’d act on if they won the lottery? We’re walking on mine.” I had no idea it was about to get so much better.

The event began with a late afternoon champagne reception where guests were able to mingle between the back portico and the lake, sipping Veritas Scintilla Brut and enjoying the perfect country breeze. Soon waitstaff began delivering tray after tray of savory hors d’oeuvres. The pork belly with sun dried tomato was a hit early and often with diners, eliciting the type of eye rolls and throaty gurgles normally reserved for the depths of a massage. “That’s it,” Bacon Terrorist Outstanding in the Field 041announced, pork belly in one hand and champagne in the other, “this whole thing was worth the price of admission. I could leave without even having dinner and still be happy.”

But the bite-sized fun wasn’t over yet. Soon Mike got his hands on a lamb merguez sausage topped with a drizzling of marinated cucumbers and fresh dill, providing a delicious contrast between the earthy, just-so-spicy sausage and clean cucumbers.  The fanfare from the crowd continued. Less of a universal hit but still good was the local veal with squash caponata. I admit, I’m not a huge veal fan for both texture and humane reasons, but I tried it to be a good guest. It was… surprisingly good. Ayrshire Farms raises humane veal calves, giving them fresh air, room to move and a balanced diet. As a result, the veal had a thicker texture and deeper color which is a sign, we later learned from our host, of calves that have not been iron deprived.

Outstanding in the Field 004The reception concluded with a welcome speech from Tim and tour of the farm where, OMFG, there are piglets. Nothing betrays a city kid more than squealing over a bunch of baby pigs but that is exactly what all the dinner guests did. How can you not? The squat pink nose, giant ears, a not quite corkscrew tail. Piglets are tailor made to be adorable and criminally delicious. The cognitive dissonance would have distracted me if I didn’t have a belly full of champagne and pork belly lamb. The farm tour continued to a pair of curious calves, the impressive stable quarters, and the organic vegetable field.

The evening’s menu and an orgy of food photos after the jump.

(more…)

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