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…)

Salad and FishYeah, that’s right.  Three.  Here it is the end of May – the fifth month of the year – and we’re not exactly keeping pace with my foodie New Year’s Resolution to attempt a restaurant-quality meal each month.  Sure, we started off strong with two recipes from Jose Andres…but that didn’t happen until February.  March came and went without a follow-up, but then we came back with some killer seasonal recipes from Tom Colicchio for Barry Koslow’s ‘Favorite Five’ ingredient list.

Now it’s May, and I’m proud to say that we’re back with a third attempt.  This month, in honor of the soon-to-open Blue Ridge, I took a crack at a pair of seafood dishes from Chef Barton Seaver.  Taking the recipes from a feature in the June 2008 issue of O, the Oprah magazine, I went shopping for the ingredients required for grilled calamari with minted red pepper and prosciutto-and-herb-wrapped halibut with blackberry salad.

The recipes seemed straightforward but high-end, exactly the kind of meal I had in mind when I made my resolution.

Cooking steps, photos…and an unexpected result…after the jump. (more…)

IMG_7720Note to self: when it comes to Sunday brunch near the Kennedy Center, it’s probably best to try to do it ANY OTHER TIME BESIDES George Washington University’s commencement weekend.  Call it a hunch, but it’s likely to be just the slightest bit easier to find a reservation in the area.

Thankfully, we turned to those foodie enablers over at OpenTable, and they were quick to offer a handful of reservations that were available before the matinee performance of Ragtime that we were going to see.  They even had a 1000-point reservation at Hook…and it HAD been a while since we’d been to Georgetown’s temple of sustainability.  Having just written about former Chef Barton Seaver’s newest venture (the soon-to-open Blue Ridge), we decided to check out Hook’s brunch.

IMG_7708When we arrived, we were shown to our usual table in the front window.  Now don’t read too much into this – we seem to have a knack for making reservations at times when that front table is unoccupied, and most places along M Street love to keep their window tables filled to draw in the foot traffic.  Within minutes our waiter arrived, asked if we were all right with filtered water (a subtle way to guide diners toward the most environmentally friendly option), and took our drink orders.

A make-your-own-champagne-cocktail bar was tempting in its array of accompanying juices and liquors, but the need to buy a full bottle of sparkling wine made that option a non-starter for us.  For me, there are few brunch joys greater than a good, spicy Bloody Mary.  Hook’s signature version of the classic drink immediately distinguished itself with its garnishes: house-cured bacon and a cocktail shrimp replaced celery and turned it into something approaching an appetizer.  Elizabeth’s choice, the Pear Ginger Lemonade, was a light and refreshing way to start the meal…and probably a better complement to the seafood we’d be enjoying than a tempting Nutella Hot Chocolate.

Of course, before we could even think about our fish, there was the issue of Heather Chittum’s baked goods to consider… (more…)

<<EDIT 5/22/09 @ 9:45 AM:  A couple of changes since we posted this.  Blue Ridge has pushed back its opening to the very end of the month, instead of next week as originally stated.  Additionally, Brightest Young Things and others have indicated that Justin Guthrie will no longer be tending bar, having taken a position as the beverage director for the new W Hotel.  Silver lining: table-service punch bowls are still expected to be on the menu at Blue Ridge.>>

BlueRidge 015We’re in the middle of another heat wave when it comes to restaurant openings here in Washington, and there are few hotter prospects than Eli Hengst’s Blue Ridge.  When it opens just after Memorial Day, DC diners will not only be treated to a RAMMY-winning Rising Culinary Star in the kitchen, they’ll also be able to enjoy cocktails mixed up by one of the all-stars behind the sorely missed Hummingbird to Mars.

We had an opportunity to take a look around the space – formerly occupied by Thai restaurant Busara – over the weekend, and it’s clear that they’re putting the finishing touches on what will be an impressive blending of modern and classic elements in a space that is roughly 100 years old.

BlueRidge 007Yesterday’s Washington Post offered some insight into Chef Barton Seaver’s commitment to sustainability, and it sounds like he’s going to have a chance to bring it to full fruition in the new Glover Park locale.  With a farm-to-table ethos that’s going to emphasize “whole animal” cooking, Blue Ridge is poised to bring a new level of sophistication to this stretch of Wisconsin Avenue without breaking the bank.

More photos, philosophies and details on what to expect behind the bar after the jump. (more…)

2344992953_37734fb072_oWith just over 18 hours to go until we announce the results of our highly scientific Valentine’s survey, it looks like Teddy Folkman of Granville Moore’s is out to a COMMANDING lead over his four opponents.

But is it enough to hold on for the win?  Could Barton Seaver stage a dramatic comeback?  Will Katsuya Fukushima suddenly catch fire?

othersAnd where are all the Johnny Monis and Spike Mendelsohn fans out there?  Talk about surprises!

Got a favorite?  You’ve got until midnight tonight to cast your votes (and to rally the troops behind your choice).

On Valentine’s Day eve, I’d like to pause to give thanks to certain chefs in DC. As a woman who spends a decent amount of time in restaurants around town, I find that some places are just a bit more enjoyable based on who is running the kitchen. Let’s face it: knowing there is a little eye candy working behind-the-scenes on those dishes can make dinner that much sweeter.

So to celebrate Valentine’s Day and give a little back, I’d like to kick off a poll for DC’s Most Crushable Chef. Please read on, cast your vote and be sure to use the comments to lobby for your favorite (this is DC after all).  We’ll post the results in a week, so make sure to get your vote in early!

Johnny Monis, Komi. Oh, dreamy Johnny Monis. The brooding eyes. The attention to detail in the kitchen. The really kick ass roast pork with cracklins that I crave fortnightly. What’s not to love? “Johnny Monis is not only one of DC’s most creative and consistent chefs,” Itty Bitty Bitter Betty gushed, “he is handsome and makes a mean house-cured olive.”

Barton Seaver, formerly of Hook. Ever since he burst onto the DC dining scene with Hook, a modern seafood restaurant in Georgetown with a focus on sustainable fish, Barton Seaver has taken home the title of DC Chef pretty boy. I think I heard swoons about the “hot chef at that M street place” long before anyone talked to me about his fresh, unfussy recipes. Diners (especially of the female variety) are waiting with baited breath to hear about his next move in DC.

Teddy Folkman, Dr. Granville Moore’s. It may have been the mussels and frites that led Teddy to victory in the Bobby Flay Throwdown, but his disarming smile and easy humor have been charming patrons long before the episode aired (is that a dimple I spy under that 2-day scruff?). He’s also a remarkably generous person. One night at Granville’s Teddy overheard my admiring his Hoegaarden tshirt and wishing for one of my own. A few minutes later he reappeared (wearing anothers shirt) with his Hoegaarden garb nicely folded for me – right off his back. Teddy’s laid back personality and easy access to guilty pleasure frites (some of the best in the city, in my opinion) may give him a leg up on the competition although a straw poll of foodie friends indicates  Teddy may still be the Joey McIntyre to Barton’s Jordan Knight. Shares Stefanie Gans of Endless Simmer: “Although he’s left Hook, Barton’s definitely still in the running for the hottest chef in town. but without any food to back up his looks, I may have to go for the man that can serve me french fries with truffle aioli: Teddy.” Coffeeshopgirl agrees, “I think Barton Seaver wins on looks alone but if Teddy Folkman were to ply me with mussels and Belgian beer, I might switch over and vote him most crushable.”

Spike Mendelsohn, Good Stuff Eatery. The Top Chef season 4 contestant that everyone loved to hate (or just loved to love) and recent DC resident can still fire up a hot-or-not debate among a table of women. Anthony Bourdain once mused that Spike would do well in DC as he’s a natural politician. We think its really because he’s just a natural flirt. Spike’s biggest admirers have been with him since day 1. “The first time I saw him on Top Chef I thought he was the ‘hot one.’ But then he opened his mouth and I heard that easy combination of smart-ass, jerk, comedian and confident swagger, and I was in full swoon,” shared Alex of BrightestYoungThings.

Katsuya Fukushima, MiniBar and ThinkFoodGroup. I’m going to throw one out for the dark horse here.  Katsuya has been on his fair share of food shows (most recently spotted on No Reservations with Bourdain and backing Jose Andres on Iron Chef a few years back) but he comfortably takes the role of behind-the-scenes guy. Maybe its because of his (self-admitted but not apparent) fear of public speaking. Last summer he stepped down from his role leading Minibar to work on a range of concepts at the ThinkFoodGroup. Regardless, Katsuya’s Hawaii-rocker meets pirate-chef vibe is not to be overlooked. You may not expect a guy rocking hoop earrings and tats to be the master of salt foams and cirque-du-soliel culinary delights (although if you work in a kitchen, this wouldn’t look out of place either), but his presence at any meal adds to the presentation. And mostly he’s the kind of guy you want to have a beer with.