Brunch at Glover Park’s gluttonous southern restaurant Kitchen may just save your life. Or at least your Sunday.

The following advice is highly scientific.

Step 1:  Spicy bloody mary

Though it may pain you to even fathom the idea, the potent combo of salty tomato juice, spice, and just the right amount of vodka will ease you back into your former self. Kitchen’s version arrives in a mason jar, which just serves to remind you that you are in the trenches and making yourself feel better is your job.

Steps 2 and 3 after the jump.


It is a little known musical fact that Johnny Cash Kris Kristofferson was inspired to write Sunday Morning Coming Down while strolling 18th Street in Adams Morgan. Who wouldn’t be? I can’t imagine a more perfect location to lament Saturday night regrets than this particular scene of so many social crimes. Luckily you can bring your Sunday morning right back to its rightful place with a well-timed brunch at Cashion’s Eat Place.

We took in Cashion’s on a bright Sunday morning when the city was still shaking off last night’s cobwebs. The air was warm but not yet steamy. The restaurant was humming but not yet crowded. Baby Spice was sleeping peacefully in her stroller and I was looking forward to enjoying a meal with two hands when… the harmony was broken by Mike talking dirty to his Bloody Mary. It was damned indecent. But Mike is a connoisseur of the drink and it takes no small feat to impress him. This Bloody Mary was on its game: robust, spicy, and not shy with the horseradish. Mike was in brunch cocktail heaven.

It was just the start of a flawless meal. Cashion’s has long been recognized for its take on sophisticated/cozy foods featuring ingredients you may have in your own kitchen but whipped into a flavorful frenzy by the talented John Manolatos. Our brunch entrees kept the joy alive. Mike’s cornmeal waffles may as well have been delivered with a choir of angels. These golden waffles were perfectly crispy with a feathery light interior that would put any duvet to shame. The warm, ripe Virginia peaches were a juicy addition to the flavors. The syrup was served warm. Thank you Cashion’s. When did cold syrup become an acceptable condiment? It ranks up there with rock hard butter as a what-the-cuss-I-may-as-well-be-dining-at-IHOP-for-all-the-attention-to-detail-I’m-seeing-here dining annoyance.The powdered sugar added its intended sweetness but was a little overkill with the ripe fruit and syrup. Still, a killer dish. If all waffles were this good, I’d never leggo that Eggo.

A savory brunch dish and surprising dessert after the jump. (more…)

When you wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the crack of noon on a Sunday, there’s nothing that says “Thank God it’s still the weekend” quite like brunch.  Whether it’s just you and a significant other or a big group outing, brunch has a certain cache that breakfast and lunch never quite attain.  Maybe it’s the fact that it’s socially acceptable to drink before noon at brunch…

Last month, we received an invitation to a bloggers’ brunch to introduce Birch & Barley’s new brunch menu.  We joined our fellow bloggers from Adventures in Shaw, The Arugula Files, Brunch and the City, and Mango & Tomato for an epic tour of the various sweet and savory offerings on the menu.  Although we didn’t get a chance to experience an average brunch service, we definitely had the opportunity to sample a wider range of dishes than we otherwise would have.

I couldn’t help but laugh as Elizabeth and our fellow writers prepared for the feast.  Each one in turn reached into her bag and pulled out…the exact same camera.  Someone needs to alert the folks at Canon that their DSLR Rebel is THE camera of choice among the DC bloggerati.

We arrived a little early for the gathering and settled into a pair of stools at the bar.  This being a beer bar, first and foremost, I decided to check out their version of the michelada.

The drink is basically a Bloody Mary with the vodka replaced by a lighter beer.  Not surprisingly, Birch & Barley’s version hit it out of the park.  The bartender was liberal with the spices and the beer’s carbonation gives the drink an effervescence that a Bloody Mary lacks.  The combination of the two makes for an easy-drinking start to brunch, and it definitely highlights the bar/restaurant’s commitment to quality beer.

From there we made our way to the table, where a veritable feast was laid before us.  Check out some of the images after the jump to decide for yourself if brunch in a beer bar is a brilliant must-do or just another positive addition to DC’s brunch scene. (more…)

Argonaut ExteriorIn case you’ve forgotten, there’s a third member of the Capital Spice team who contributes little more than some cute photos from time to time.  On a recent weekend morning, however, Murphy performed a much more valuable function: he cast the deciding vote on where we would go for brunch.

It was ridiculously pleasant out, the perfect weather for an outdoor meal.  It was also the perfect weather for a long walk with our dog.  So we decided to combine the two and seek out a restaurant where we could enjoy a nice patio brunch with Murphy in tow.

Patio at ArgonautI can’t find the post now, but I remember reading that the Argonaut’s patio was decidedly dog-friendly and that they were offering brunch on Saturdays starting at 10.  I also read something about a “Bloody Mary bar.” It was the perfect combination.  We headed out for a walk and gradually made our way toward 14th and H Streets, NE.

So of course we were early.  Thankfully the staff was nice enough to let us make ourselves comfortable on the patio while they got ready for service.  While we were waiting, we looked over the menu.  What we saw got us hungry in a hurry.

A brunch menu with punch, complete with the appropriate make-your-own morning cocktails, after the jump. (more…)

Bloody Mary with Celery FoamAs a twirtysomething, I’ve noticed brunch has become the new Saturday night. Raucous girls’ nights in Adams Morgan are replaced with cozy dates or -for some – hanging with the kids. Naturally the next best thing to a boozy Saturday night is a stiff Bloody Mary on a Sunday morning.  And what better Bloody Mary to sip than a Jill Zimorski version of the classic Bloody Mary with tomato water and celery foam? 

The Cafe Atlantico Latino Dim Sum brunch has been on our must-try list for far too long. The weather was warm, our weekend was open and it was time to do something about it. We were joined at brunch by Los Alemanes and their adorable boy Lucas.  

We’d been lucky repeat visitors at Andres’ MiniBar upstairs and couldn’t wait to try his unique take on dim sum, a traditional Chinese breakfast. We were not disappointed.  Brunch at Atlantico is offered a la carte, with a selection of roughly 25 small plates that can be mixed and matched to create your ideal meal.  But they also offer a pair of tasting menus that put your choices in the hands of the chefs for $35 (14 dishes) or $25 (12 vegetarian dishes) and allow you to experience a broader range of tastes in one sitting.  We couldn’t help ourselves – we went for the tasting.

Oyster with Mango Lime OilThe chefs wasted no time getting us started.  Out came one of the most intensely flavorful bites I have ever enjoyed at a brunch: a small, silky kushi oyster topped with a sweet mango puree and a few snippets of chive.  We exchanged looks around the table and knew that we were all thinking the same thing: Wow.  With an opening salvo like that, we couldn’t wait to see what would follow.

A play-by-play of the other thirteen dishes (and a detour for some tableside guacamole) 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…)

April can be such a tease. The sun is out for a minute and then the sky is dumping rain. The air is warm until you step into a shadow and immediately wish for a scarf. Which is why this tart is so lovely. The filling is warm and dense enough to comfort on a rainy afternoon but the fresh herbs and crunchy cornmeal crust remind you that spring is in your backyard, whether you get to go outside and enjoy it or not. winner

We picked this recipe from John Ash’s From the Earth to the Table, a wine country cookbook focusing on seasonal ingredients. All of those things are nice, but what really drew me in was the promise of a “can’t screw it up” crust. I’ve always been intimidated by crusts – they are a crucial base for so many desserts and yet so fickle! – so when it really counts, I’ve gone store bought. But, I figured, no time like the present to start practicing for the real deal.

So it turns out Mr. Ash knows what he is talking about – this crust is easy to do. A standing mixer with a paddle attachment did the heavy lifting for me as I mixed the butter, sugar, cornmeal and eggs together. Once I started to add in the flour I switched to mixing by hand with a silicone spatula. (Does anyone else swear by these? Wooden spoons are a thing of the past!) Once it took on a sticky consistency, I worked it into a ball, plopped it into saran wrap and shoved it into the refrigerator for an hour.

While the dough is chillaxing, I moved on to the filling which starts off with a beurre blanc (butter, cream, wine and shallots, but I used spring onions from the DuPont farmers’ market) with a dash of white pepper. Once this has simmered and reduced by half, I removed it from the heat to let it cool,  which I accomplished handily by ignoring the food altogether and catching up on Real Housewives of NYC on DVR. (That Kelly chick is crazycakes!)

img_2099Back in the kitchen, I mixed in the ricotta, eggs and herbs (thyme and rosemary) into the now-cooled filling and set it aside. Time to tackle the cornmeal crust. It rolled out reasonably well, though we did have some tense moments in the beginning when I worried it didn’t have enough “stick” to it and soon I was wrestling it off the counter and onto the tart pan. I think this single action is probably one of the most harrowing moments of baking. After that we were on easy street. I poured the filling into the tart pan and into the oven it went for about 35 minutes, until the top was just turning brown and the center barely set.  We couldn’t wait to dig in.

This is a tart in quiche clothing – it has all the appearance of being a paler version of its egg-based cousin but the ricotta and beurre blanc add creaminess and depth to the flavors and the herbs jumped out as springtime itself. If I came up with this recipe on my own, I don’t think I would have thought of a cornmeal crust but it was ideal. The earthy crust with tiny flecks of corn texture kept the baked cheese grounded – a light traditional pastry crust would have resulted in too much lightness and air. This keeps the dish down to earth.  This is an ideal dish to make for or bring to a brunch – the flavors intensify as the tart cools and the crunchy crust is an unexpected ally to the whipped, silky filling.  It is a rich dish. I recommend balancing it with a light salad and maybe some citrus. We served it along side a salad of Loudon lettuce (also from the DuPont Market), daikon radishes, apples and a vanilla-fig olive oil from the Temecula Olive Oil Company.

Ricotta cheese-thyme tart with sweet cornmeal crust John Ash’s From the Earth to the Table
serves 8-12 (it’s rich! Small slices are advised.)

1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
2 Tb sugar
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 large eggs (room temperature)
1 ts kosher or sea salt 
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Using an exlectric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or by hand, in a large bowl beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cornmeal, eggs, and salt and beat until well combined. Add the flour and mix until the dough forms a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour (or overnight). Lightly butter a 9-inch tart pan and dust with cornmeal. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a circle 11 inches in diameter. Roll the dough up onto the rolling pin and transfer to the tart pan, eveninly pressing the dough into the sides. Trim excess dough. Prick with a fork several times and bake for 8 minutes. [Ed note: I completely overlooked this step and didn’t pre-bake the crust. It seemed to turn out okay anyway.]

1 tb unsalted butter
4 tb minced shallots or green onions, white part only
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 ts kosher or sea salt
1/4 ts ground white pepper
12 oz whole-milk ricotta cheese
3 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 Tb savory herbs

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and saute the shallots until soft but not brown. Add the cream, wine, salt, and white pepper and cook over medium heat until reduced by half. Cool. Add the ricotta cheese, eggs, and thyme and beat until smooth. Pour into the prepared tart shell.

Bake for 35 minutes or until the filling is just set and slightly browned.

I have two confessions: 1) Any place with a champagne and Bloody Mary bar is going to win my favor. 2) Mon Ami Gabi is a chain. We try not to write about chains here (with the exception of local franchises) but here I have made an exception. Consider yourself warned. mon-ami-gabi1

Mon Ami Gabi is a faux French bistro that does an excellent job of making itself feel authentic. Or at least as authentic as a French destination can feel in the middle of downtown Bethesda. The tiny floor tiles are black and white, the menu chalkboard is prominent, and the food options are heavy on the steaks, frites and frisees. 

One major difference? The portion sizes in this particular bistro, unlike its kissing cousins across the pond, are generous. Before ordering, the friendly (another key difference) server plops two long baguettes in bags down on the table with a tablet of butter – soft butter, so clutch – for munching. This bread was perfect. Warm and soft in the center and with the slightest crunchy crust on the outside. Give me these and a bottle of wine and I’ll be set for hours.

The portion generosity continues to the meal. Hanger steaks live up to their name, with glistening corners nearly dangling off the side of their plates and piled with crispy frites. During a recent visit, my friend The Rocket Scientist (for realsies, it’s what she does) ordered an onion soup au gratin (read: French onion soup) and received a white cauldron of the delicious broth, topped off with an abundant serving of gruyere cheese. Many diners might order this as an appetizer and they would soon find themselves leaving soup behind or still slurping as their companions tucked into hot entrees.

Mon Ami Gabi’s brunch is one of my favorite features. For those of us who don’t live in Bethesda, it’s a great excuse to spend time in a fun neighborhood with the luxury of weekend laziness. Plus – and this is big for me – Mon Ami Gabi’s brunch menu is a combination of brunch items such as crepes and waffles and their full lunch menu. I’m not a big egg person which means brunch menu often translates to “Hmm… pancakes or waffles?” On my most recent visit, I opted for the smoked salmon crepe served with a small salad. The crepe was buckwheat, making it heartier than expected but also standing up to the light sauce and delicate flavor of the salmon. It was both satisfying and light; the perfect late brunch meal.

Admittedly, Bethesda is not an easy drive from the Hill so I don’t know how often we’ll find ourselves dining there. But considering the abundance of restaurants we can just as easily find in DC proper (Jaleo? Raku? I’m looking at you) it’s nice to know dependable, friendly Mon Ami Gabi is there.

Mon Ami Gabi
7239 Woodmont Ave
Bethesda, MD 20814
Mon Ami Gabi on Urbanspoon

img_7196When it comes to speakeasy-chic, it’s way too easy to cross the line and come off as trying too hard.  The best way to avoid that pitfall?  Don’t try – just be. 

Once you’ve walked up the dimly lit stairs and settled in to the cozy dining room and bar that make up 1905, it’s understandable to lose yourself in the fantasy that you’re in some secret hideaway known to a chosen few.  The walls are decked out with ornate metalwork and wall sconces that look like lotus blossoms.  The ceiling is pressed tin.  The furniture is distressed just-so.  But the door is cleary marked with the address, and a sign hanging outside the entrance clearly displays the skeleton key that is the restaurant’s symbol.  This place just feels exclusive…and that’s a good thing.

We had heard about this newcomer to a block of 9th Street that was previously best known for Ethiopian must-try Etete when it first opened, and we were definitely interested.  dakota1905benedictEven so, we hadn’t gotten around to visiting before Monday, when Alex at Brightest Young Things invited us to attend a tasting event in honor of their new brunch, which will debut this Sunday, March 15th. 

Over the course of the evening, we got to enjoy a few of the dishes that will appear on the inaugural brunch menu, as well as a few additions to the dinner menu and a killer dessert.

More tasty bites (and even tastier photos by Dakota Fine) after the jump. (more…)