Image from Le Bernardin website

On Friday night, DC foodies have a chance to see a pair of bonafide celebrity chefs doing what they do second best: sitting around laughing and chatting with each other on all kinds of topics.  Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert are coming to the Warner Theater for what is being billed as “an evening of storytelling and observation providing the audience with a frank and provocative back and forth about what really goes on behind the kitchen doors- from both ends of the spectrum.”

That’s right.  Bourdain and Ripert.  Onstage.  Together.  Just hanging out, you know, like a pair of bros.  And you can join them (maybe even ask them a question if you get lucky).

It’s a total foodie geek-out opportunity, and the bonhomie between the two chefs pretty much guarantees it’s going to be a good time.  To this day one of my favorite episodes of “No Reservations” involved Bourdain getting back on the line at Les Halles and eventually being joined by Ripert on the fish station.  Grub Street has a great reminder of just what fun the episode was to watch.

We had a chance to chat with Eric Ripert in advance of his visit, and we took the opportunity to ask him about the show, his “regular guest judge” role on the upcoming DC-based season of Top Chef, and how much the city’s dining scene has changed since he was cooking at the Watergate twenty years ago:

Capital Spice: Good afternoon, Chef.  Thanks for talking with us today.  We’re already looking forward to your show on Friday night – what can you tell us about it?
Eric Ripert: It’s going to be a lot of fun.  The setup is one of a moderated conversation, with a question and answer period at the end.

CS: Can you give us an idea of what you’ll be talking about?
ER: It’s hard to say…for us, it really is going to be a conversation, and we have a very easy dynamic.  But I expect we will be speaking about things like the current state of “fine dining” – what it means today, the state that it’s in.  Of course, we’ll likely also talk about things like Top Chef, so there will be something for everyone.

CS: It looks like you’ve only got two of these evenings scheduled (the second is in Baltimore on Saturday night).  What made you pick DC for this?
ER: Washington is an easy choice – it’s relatively close to New York, where Tony and I are both based, I have a restaurant here, and it is a city that enjoys good food.

More of our interview with “The Ripper” – including some of his favorite recent dining experiences and some Top Chef gossip – after the jump. (more…)

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anthony_bourdain_no_reservations_on_the_travel_channelWith a little less than an hour to go before the DC episode airs on the Travel Channel tonight at 10 PM, it’s time to announce the winner of our “No Reservations” contest.  We asked you to let us know where you would take Bourdain for a drink, and you rose to the challenge!

We were really impressed with the level of creativity and thought that went into the submissions we received – clearly Capital Spice readers know their way around the DC drinking and dining scene.

Generally speaking, entries tended to take one of two approaches – you either wanted to wow Bourdain by taking him to places that featured good food AND quality beverages, or you wanted to expose Tony to the stripped-down, diviest bars that DC has to offer.  Somehow, I think he’d approve.

From category one, the best of the best:

  • A recent mixologist cocktail party, featuring a make-your-own champagne cocktail bar (this one came with a back-up: the outdoor bar at Johnny’s Half Shell, noted for “the best vodka gimlet in the history of mankind.”)
  • Brasserie Beck for mussels and lots of beer (this entry deserves props for suggesting an Ethiopian place like Etete, especially since Bourdain visits Abay Market in the episode).
  • Blue Duck Tavern, “mainly for their handcut BDT triple fries” and a bottle of Bordeaux.  Bourdain and Bordeaux?  Yes, please!

From category two, some of the best neighborhood joints:

  • Cantina Marina “for a refreshing bucket of beers and some fish tacos.”  The Marina was cited as “distinctly ‘the Real DC,'” and this entry also gets props for accurately predicting one of Bourdain’s stops (the Maine Avenue Fish Wharf).
  • Tiffany’s Old Town Tavern for live bluegrass on a Friday or Saturday night.  Telling it like it is, this entry treated “only Yuengling on tap, and really crappy food” as a badge of honor while giving props to the bar’s great atmosphere.
  • Dan’s Cafe.  Anyone familiar with this Adams Morgan legend can immediately picture Bourdain sitting down with his own bottle of booze and the mixer of his choice in this dive bar’s dive bar.  This “hole in the wall that has never changed” is definitely a unique experience that Tony would not soon forget.

But the winner of the signed poster suggested something even better – a truly under-the-radar spot on its most off-beat night.  In her own words:

jimmy“I would take Mr. Bourdain for a drink at Jimmy Valentine’s Lonely Hearts Club, preferably when Wasteland is running, which is the last Friday of every month.  This place has no signage outside and the window is blacked out and the place appears to be shut down from the outside, but once you walk in, you feel the energy in all the red lighting.  The place has the most interesting and unique decor and is so very comfortable. On Wasteland night, the music is Goth Rock, Darkwave, and Gothic Ambient, which seems to fit the overall decor so well.  This place is one of DC’s best Dive bars and yet also remains one of the least known.”

Congratulations to DMC in DC for her excellent suggestion.  To us, it’s the perfect blend of insider and outsider, and exactly the kind of place that Bourdain would revel in.  We’ll be sending an email shortly to arrange delivery of the signed poster.

If you haven’t heard about Jimmy V’s, don’t feel too bad.  They’ve been building a quiet following from their nondescript location on Bladensburg Road just north of H Street, NE, for about a year and a half now.  Want more information?  Check out Frozen Tropics, a blog that focuses on Trinidad and the greater H Street area.

And thank you to all of you who took the time to send in your recommendations.  With any luck, the powers that be over at the Travel Channel’s headquarters in Silver Spring will print out a copy of this post and offer it to Bourdain the next time he’s in town so he can check out your suggestions.  We’ve definitely added some new spots to our “must try” list thanks to your help!

anthony_bourdain_no_reservations_on_the_travel_channelWith all eyes on Washington for the inauguration, the Travel Channel couldn’t have picked a better time to air the new episode of No Reservations that Anthony Bourdian filmed here in DC last July.  As promised, we’ve been sorting through the rumors about where Bourdain ate and who he hung out with – and I have to say, our commenters got his itinerary pretty well mapped out!

In advance of the episode’s airing next Monday night, the folks at the Travel Channel reached out to us with a few goodies to share – including a clip of the scene in Ben’s Chili Bowl and a poster signed by Bourdain himself.  Want to win it?  Enter the contest at the end of this post.

Sure, Bourdain hit Ben’s Chili Bowl (he even acknowledges that just about EVERY food and/or travel show that has ever done a piece on DC has pulled up a stool at their iconic counter), but he did it in the company of one of DC’s premier writers: George Pelecanos.  Pelecanos’ love for Ben’s is well-known, and Nizam Ali couldn’t help spilling the beans about their visit when we sat down to talk about Next Door back in December.

Check out Bourdain in Ben’s and the inside scoop on where else he’ll be chowing down after the jump.

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Suddenly DC is awash with celebrity chefs. The weekend of the 4th Thomas Keller dined at Restaurant Eve. Top Cheftestants Stephanie, Atononia and Lisa walked the red carpet at Spike’s Good Stuff party (the former two were spotted dining at Central that night, for those keeping track). The latest bold name to grace our fair streets? Mr. Nasty Bits himself, Anthony Bourdain. Maybe he’s in town to personally thank Endless Simmer for the E-ward shout out?

According to DCist and Apples and Bananas, Bourdain was spotted cruising the Penn Quarter Farmers Market with local heavy Jose Andres, No Reservations crew in tow. The pair spent some time talking to vendors and then slipped out of the heat into Cafe Atlantico. Maybe one of Katsuya Fukushima’s famous Minibar cotton candy foie gras is in his future?

If you watch No Reservations, you know Bourdain is especially prone to covering the split personalities of his destinations. He’ll usually kick off with visits to some trendy, high-end establishments (ahem, see above) then veer into everyman joints… taquerias in LA… noodle shops in Singapore. All reports indicate a similar agenda for the Beltway episode. So where should you stake your claim if you want a little Bourdain facetime? We hazarded a few guesses:

Ben’s Chili Bowl: The granddaddy of the “down with the real folks” tour in DC. Much like Jumbo Slice, I’ve only consumed Ben’s after a night of boozing. Still 50 years of booming business means they’re doing something right. We recommend the half-smoke.

Jimmy T’s: A hole-in-the-wall breakfast diner tucked away on Capitol Hill. this is where DC staffers can pop in for a no-frills breakfast with old school prices.

[Insert Bland, Preppy Georgetown Restaurant]: J. Paul’s, Clydes, The Daily Grill… take your pick. This restaurant segment will not appear in the everyman segment of the episode. For guaranteed on camera time, pop that collar. (more…)