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Firehook ExteriorAsk any DC transplant from New York, New Jersey or Philadelphia and they’ll tell you – in no uncertain terms – that you just can’t get good bread in Washington.  It’s the water, they say.  Whether it’s the crust, the crumb or the taste, something is always just a little off.

The folks at Firehook would politely disagree.  That’s just how they are.  Since 1992, Firehook Bakeries have been turning out bread from natural steam ovens that makes the argument for Washington.

Along the way, they’ve built up quite the following.  Whether you visit them in Old Town, Dupont Circle or Cleveland Park, you’ll find a selection of breads, but you’ll also find cookies, pastries and even sandwiches and salads.  On Capitol Hill, there are more than a few offices that rely on Firehook for their regular meeting sustenance.

Beyond the baguettes after the jump. (more…)

Le Bon ExteriorMy work has always required me to spend at least some time on Capitol Hill, but until recently my office has been elsewhere.  Now that I’m working on the Hill full time, I’ve begun to explore the lunch options in much greater detail.  Lucky me, right?

I had always felt that the restaurants in closest proximity to the Congressional office buildings lacked a certain…I don’t know what. (Bet you thought I was going to toss off a French phrase there, didn’t you?)  Simply put, the majority of the choices seemed to be geared toward expediency – sandwich chains, steam table buffets, and coffee shops abound.  I was ready to start investing in brown bags.

Le Bon CounterBut then I decided to stop into Le Bon Cafe, a quaint little storefront on 2nd Street SE between a FedEx Office and Pete’s Diner.  I had seen plenty of people streaming in and out of the bright blue doors and even some friendly gatherings at the tables outside, so I decided to check it out for myself.  The line, which ended just inside the door, struck me as a good sign (though it was lunchtime on Capitol Hill and that’s hardly unusual).

Breaking away from the Hill lunch rut after the jump. (more…)

silverdocs_logoNext Monday, Silver Spring plays host to one of our favorite annual events – the yearly SilverDocs documentary film festival.  Held at the AFI Silver Theatre each June, SilverDocs packs an amazing variety of subject matter into its slate year after year.  Murderball?  They had it in 2005, complete with a Q&A featuring some of the stars.  Man on Wire was a big hit last year.  I’d say a good 10 percent of our Netflix queue has shown at SilverDocs since its debut in 2003.

As much as we’ve enjoyed the shows we’ve seen, SilverDocs has presented something of a challenge to us when we’ve tried to make a date night of it.  Silver Spring isn’t exactly a hotbed of dining destinations.  OpenTable has exactly three choices – Ceviche, Mrs. K’s Toll House, and Nicaro – and most of the other options tend toward quick-service and/or chains.

Fear not!  Whether you’re looking to dine before or after that screening of The Nine Lives of Marion Barry, there are some options that are definitely worth checking out:

Nicaro ExteriorNicaroAs we mentioned above, Nicaro is one of the three Silver Spring restaurants on OpenTable, so you can lock in your dinner plans now (woe to those who wait until the night of the show to find a place to eat).  On a recent visit, we checked out their weeknight deal – two courses for $25 from Tuesday through Thursday.  The best part?  You can choose whether your two courses are an appetizer and an entree, or an entree and dessert.

IMG_7741Chef/Owner Pedro Matamoros made a name for himself at the Tabard Inn before opening his own place, and his approach to updated American cuisine results in some truly impressive dishes (though there are some that don’t quite come together, as well).  The menu changes regularly, but we really enjoyed a housemade charcuterie plate and grilled squid as our appetizers.  Our favorite dish?  A mixed grill of lamb that included sausage, shank and beautifully rare loin cuts with a tomato chutney.

Nicaro
8229 Georgia Ave.
Silver Spring, MD
Nicaro on Urbanspoon

Three more options for dining, drinks and coffee after the jump. (more…)

Not really Tim Carman, but you get the idea

Not really Tim Carman, but you get the idea

If you were following the Washington City Paper’s blogs on Thursday, February 19th, you were treated to “an average day in the city” – including food writer Tim Carman’s rundown of a day spent with Joe Englert.  Apparently it was a hit, because they’ve decided to take another bite at the apple today.

This time, the City Paper’s staff has taken an entirely food-focused approach.  You can expect to see photo sets highlighting the contents of their refrigerators (you know you’re curious), street cart serenades, and even an investigative piece into the District’s edible waste (read: a salute to dumpster-diving).

best-of-dcWill it be The Best of DC?  Probably not.  After all, the point of the effort is to look at food and dining from average, unsung angles…checking in with line cooks instead of executive chefs, for example. 

There’s certainly no shortage of subject matter, but we want to be helpful in case some of the writers get stuck.  So here’s an “average day for food” at Capital Spice:

Breakfast: a homemade cappuccino, made with illy espresso and topped with milk frothed using our aerolatte.
Lunch: a salad with Loudoun lettuce from Endless Summer Harvest and roasted chicken from Capitol Hill Poultry in Eastern Market
Dinner: Sushi at Momoyama (Boston roll, bulgogi roll, iguana roll)

Throw in a blog post and a few food-focused press-releases sent our way, and that’s about the extent of it…as long as our willpower holds out and we can refrain from mid-day snacking.

Hmmm…not exactly exciting, but definitely average.

What would an average day for food mean for you?  Bonus points if it actually involves you working with food in some capacity!

sidamo-exteriorH Street is getting plenty of publicity lately, with popular dining locations like Granville Moore’s and Sticky Rice and nightlife destinations such as the Rock n’ Roll Hotel and the Red & the Black.  And with Joe Englert’s next big project – the H Street Country Club – just a few weeks from opening, the eastern end of the street is about to get even hotter.

Unless you live in the neighborhood, though, it’s likely you’ve never heard of one of the real hot spots on H Street.  For a little over two years, Sidamo Coffee & Tea has been drawing in crowds with the smell of fresh-roasted coffee beans and a welcoming atmosphere.

Coffee connoisseurs may perk up at the name – Sidamo is a province in Ethiopia whose coffee beans are prized for their rich, spicy aroma and flavor.  And those Sidamo beans can definitely be found here, as can other Ethiopian varieties like Yergacheffe and Harrar.  Owners Kenfe Bellay and his wife, Mimi, are both from Addis Ababa, and their love for the coffee of their homeland shows through in every cup.  They also make it a point to buy fair-trade, shade-grown coffee beans; the former because those growers are “their family,” and the latter because Kenfe believes they just taste better.

More about this true neighborhood gem – including their cafe-style menu and some additional pictures – after the jump. (more…)

The end of January is typically considered the most depressing time of the year. Progress has slowed to a crawl on those weight loss resolutions, bills from holiday shopping are showing up at your doorstep, and baby it’s cold outside with no end in sight! Here are three top spots to warm up on cold, dark winter nights.

Tabard Inn
This upscale American restaurant feels almost European. Tucked into a sidestreet in DuPont among centuries old townhouses and in the shadow of St. Matthew’s Cathedral dome, you could easily convince yourself you were on a quick getaway to London. The bar and lounge of the Tabard Inn keep the fantasy alive. Club chairs and couches gathered in small groups sit underneath low, beamed ceilings and – when the temperatures turn cold – a fire burns in the fireplace.  Walking into the Tabard Inn’s lounge, I always feel like I’ve stumbled through a magic wardrobe into a small town English pub. The restaurant has hosted its fair share of romantic meals in its day (it ws a favorite of Mike and mine when we were dating) but these days we’re just as content to take in some warm cocktails next to the roaring fireplace. The lounge includes waitress service so you can settle in and defrost from the harsh outdoors.  If you’re feeling especially induglent, I highly recommend the hot buttered rum. 

Tabard Inn
1739 N St NW
Washington, DC 20036 
Tabard Inn on Urbanspoon

Two more top spots to warm up after the jump.   (more…)

Click on the image to go to our Google Map that locates all of the establishments offering extended hours during Inauguration Weekend.

Click on the image to go to our Google Map that locates all of the establishments offering extended hours during Inauguration Weekend.

When we put up our Google map featuring ABRA’s original list of 213 restaurants, bars and clubs that will be keeping additional hours starting tomorrow, we mentioned that there were 73 additional establishments whose okays were pending.

Pending what?  Approval from their local Advisory Neighborhood Committees (ANCs) and Citizens’ Associations, with whom they have voluntary agreements limiting their hours of operation.  In most cases, the neighborhood groups were willing to play ball – this map includes more than 55 new listings.

As Jule Banfield mentioned over at the Washington City Paper’s City Desk blog, more than 30 of the additions are located along the 18th Street corridor in Adams Morgan.  The rest are scattered throughout the city, with two on the H Street Corridor (Sticky Rice and Palace of Wonders), one right near the Capitol (Good Stuff Eatery) and many more in Northwest.

But not every establishment that was on the ‘pending’ list we saw last week was approved.  The fifteen who didn’t make it – and what that might mean for a certain ping pong and pizza place’s inaugural party – after the jump. (more…)

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