For two years now, SeamlessWeb has been providing welcome jolts of caffeine to weary New Yorkers from time to time.  Starting today, they’re doing it here in Washington too.  And to celebrate, they want us to give you free cash.  Go figure, we said yes.

Let’s start with the free coffee.

If you were in the vicinity of Foggy Bottom this morning, you may have noticed a bright red truck trumpeting SeamlessWeb’s online food delivery service.  Hopefully you bothered to wander over to find out what it was all about.  If you did, you were part of FreeCoffeeDay!  If not, you missed out.

But don’t worry – the truck is going to be making the rounds for the next three days, stopping at Union Station tomorrow, Dupont Circle on Wednesday and in Chinatown on Thursday.  Each day, you’ll be able to stop by the truck and pick up a free cup of coffee to help get your day going.

And to sweeten the deal just a little bit further, SeamlessWeb is running a Twitter promotion in conjunction with FreeCoffeeDay.  Tweet a photo of yourself enjoying your free coffee to @seamlessweb and the hashtag #freecoffee and you’ll earn a chance at a free $100 SeamlessWeb gift card.

The free coffee doesn’t stop flowing on Thursday.  Starting next Monday, the 14th, and running through to the 27th, you’ll be able to swing by some of the local restaurants you can find on SeamlessWeb’s normal delivery service and score a free cup of coffee from them, as well.  Play your cards right and you’ll be jittering your way through the entire month of February on someone else’s dime.

So what about that free stuff they want us to give you?

How do two $25 SeamlessWeb gift cards sound?  They’re yours for the winning – all you have to do is tell us how you take your coffee, just like that sweet little girl did in the movie Airplane!  The two answers that make us laugh the loudest will win.

Not familiar with SeamlessWeb?  Neither were we, but they’ve been offering online ordering and free delivery from all kinds of restaurants here in DC since 2003.  I did a quick search, and they’ve got 30 restaurants that will deliver right to my office.  I can choose from Indian, Japanese, pizza or Turkish, as well as a wide range of offerings via Takeout Taxi, all accessible through SeamlessWeb’s site.  Use code FREECOFFEE on the site, and you can save an additional $5 on your first order of $10 or more.

Okay, so technically Friday morning isn’t exactly Thursday morning…

Thanks to everyone who took the time to submit an entry for our Top Chef Prize Pack giveaway.  We had a lot of fun reading over your answers and seeing which former Cheftestants you would like to see in an all-star season.

We were surprised that one of our favorite DC competitors, Carla Hall, didn’t come up.  Of all the runners-up so far she’s the one we most want to see get another bite at the apple.

And we loved your ideas for guest judges…the idea of Gordon Ramsay trying to judge Top Chef style instead of throwing a Hell’s Kitchen-quality fit made us smile.

Our winner (chosen at random) hit on a previous challenge that we would definitely like to see make a comeback – and for exactly the same reason.  Food trucks really are popping up at an amazing rate here in Washington, and it would be fun to see the all-stars try their hand at some more creative mobile dining options.

Congratulations to Amy – you win the prize pack that includes Top Chef Season Six (Las Vegas), Top Chef Masters Season One and the Top Chef Quickfire Cookbook.  We’ll be in touch shortly to arrange delivery.

Thanks again to everyone who entered.  We love offering these kinds of contests and we hope to do more of them in the future.

Image by Bravo

We missed you!

Sorry for the post silence lately – we promise we’re still keeping an eye on openings, eating around town and trying some delicious dishes at home.  We’re just a bit behind on letting you know about it.

So…how about that Top Chef DC?  Yeah, definite wasted opportunity.  It had its moments: Sam Kass and school lunches, for example.  But Washingtonians and viewers in general pretty much agree that this season was lackluster.

Oh well – they’re off to Thailand and we’re ready for the rumored-but-not-officially-confirmed Top Chef All Star season that may or may not be currently filming in New York (more on that later – some familiar faces from DC may be involved).  We’re also rooting for the home team on Top Chef: Just Desserts when it debuts this week, cheering on Hook’s Heather Chittum as she takes on a field of eleven other pastry chefs.

And we’re also looking back at some more enjoyable Top Chef memories, as well.  Top Chef Season 6 gave fans plenty of talent and competition – and gave DC fans a favorite to root for clear to the end in VOLT’s Bryan Voltaggio.  The first season of Top Chef Masters provided a fun twist on the format and a winner who’s just such a darn nice guy.  And then there was the Top Chef Quickfire Cookbook – everything you need (except years of training) to duplicate some of the most inventive dishes from the show’s first five seasons.

They’re all available for purchase now…or you can win them right here.  That’s right – we’re having another Top Chef Finale giveaway contest this week.  The winner gets a prize pack that includes Top Chef Season 6, Top Chef Masters Season 1, and the Quickfire Cookbook!

Want to win?  Leave a comment with three components (one for each prize):

1. A celebrity chef you’d like to see as a judge next season
2. The competitor you would MOST like to see in an “All Star” season, were there to be one
3. A challenge from a previous season you’d like to see brought back

We’ll announce a winner (selected at random from all eligible entries) on Thursday morning, just in case you don’t get your fill of Top Chef with Wednesday night’s back-to-back episodes.

And thanks for reading!

As we mentioned earlier, we really were impressed by the scope of the entries we received for this contest.  If the producers of Top Chef just worked with the 80+ suggestions we received, they could easily fill an entire season of quickfire and elimination challenges in the nation’s capital.  You’ve certainly done your part to help show what a great backdrop DC could offer for Top Chef.

We’re grateful to Bravo’s “Eat Tastefully” for giving us the opportunity to offer this contest in the first place.  The winner will receive a prize package that includes a DVD set of Top Chef Season 5 and a copy of the new Top Chef Quickfire Cookbook.

Just to give you an idea of the kind of creative thinking we saw from all of you, we want to highlight a few of our favorites:

  • FrenchTwistDC – “Toothpick rule” quickfire challenge! With the no-free-meals-from-lobbyists rules in effect now, lobbyists can only feed congressional aides hors d’oeuvres and “food that you have to eat standing up using a toothpick.”


  • Jacques – “Contestants must create two dishes for a cocktail party of presidential historians and American history buffs. Each dish is inspired by and uses an ingredient associated with an American President. Draw knifes with president’s name and ingredient.  Guest Judges: White House Chef Sam Kass and Presidential Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.  Location: A White House-related/adjacent restaurant/hotel: one of Founding Farmers Restaurant, the Hay-Adams, W, or Willard Hotel, or the atrium space at Old Ebbitt Grill.”


  • statedinner – “Cheftestants will start at the Library of Congress. They will be presented with menus from various state dinners and will be asked to update them using local ingredients and their own personal style. The guest judge can either be the curator/head librarian of the Library of Congress or the White House Head Chef.”


  • leslie – “Location: Start with a visit to the Inn at Little Washington for a discussion of locally produced ingredients; Introduce Guest Chef Judge Patrick O’Connell, one of the finest chefs in the nation. Hold an elimination challenge at Montpelier, President Madison’s home to benefit the Archeology Research Program just a few miles away which would include a discussion of why it was included in the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1984. Prepare two dishes in the kitchen at the Inn at Little Washington for each of the 100 attending a charity benefit at Montpelier using the same protein randomly chosen from those selected for the competition by Chef O’Connell from the local area.”


  • Gunther Freehill – “Each contestant draws a knife with the name of a country with an embassy on or near Sheridan Circle. They are told to prepare two dishes: One that represents the country they have chosen, the other that is distinctly American but would appeal to people in that country.  Each contestant cooks in the kitchen of the embassy of the country they choose. Ideally, they would each have a partner in the person of the chef from the embassy. But the twist is that they can advise one another, but the Top Chef contestant cooks the first dish, the embassy chef the American dish.”

In some of these cases, it was the little details that set them apart from others who made similar suggestions.  In others, it was their absolute originality that made us smile.  We had a few obvious shills in and among the suggestions, but even they were respectful and obviously eager to show how they could be a part of showing what’s best about the DC food scene.

But there was one suggestion that stood out in our minds from the very beginning.  It had that “just-right” feel that makes you say “Of course!” when you read it.  Combining the uniqueness of Washington with the spirit of Top Chef and the very concept of judging, our winner hit the nail right on the head.

  • Amy – “Should definitely involve the Supreme Court Justices – the best-trained judges around! The contestants could be required to make quick, healthy meals during a quick fire for the justices to eat during conference. The Justices are a bit older – so focusing on foods that will taste good, but that are also giving you the nutrition you need when your entire day is spent sitting on the bench or researching.”

There’s something about the idea of seeing the chefs in their coats serving to the Justices in their black robes that worked for us.

So congratulations to Amy for her winning suggestion – we’ll be getting in touch with you today to arrange the shipping of your prize package.  And thanks to everyone who helped us make the case for DC as an ideal Top Chef host city.

Last week, we finished our interview of Bryan Voltaggio with a poll.  Judging by the number of responses we’ve received, quite a few of our readers are watching Top Chef along with us – and you’re pretty evenly divided between Atlanta’s Kevin Gillespie and local favorite Bryan as your choice to win it all.

Here at Capital Spice, we want to give you a chance to join in the winning during the finale on Wednesday night.  We’ve got a Top Chef prize package that includes a copy of Top Chef Season 5 (featuring DC’s own Carla Hall) and the new Top Chef Quickfire Cookbook.  The prizes come courtesy of Bravo’s “Eat Tastefully,” an online series in which Season 3 cheftestant Brian Malarkey whips up healthier versions of winning dishes.

And they can be yours – just in time for the holidays – if you join in the contest after the jump. (more…)

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.


“It’s a walk-off.”

When the Who Cooked It Better? gauntlet was thrown down after Endless Simmer’s Spice Master contest, I couldn’t help but smile. As anyone who knows me can tell you, most of my kitchen improvisations involve cumin, paprika, chili powder, or a combination of the three. Working three of the spices from the Tunisian fun-pack wouldn’t be the problem – editing would. I needed to find a dish that highlighted the spices without going overboard.  I wanted to avoid doing a typical lamb-and-cous cous arrangement, so I figured I’d try to work with some kind of fish or shellfish.

In the end, I turned to John Ash’s “From the Earth to the Table,” a cookbook we picked up after seeing it in a winery in Temecula, California. We’ve found some real winners in this book before, and Elizabeth reminded me that one of them is a delicious tomato-curry soup served with riso (a rice-like pasta, similar to orzo only smaller and easier to overcook).  The soup base already had me using one of the required spices, so it seemed like a great place to start.

Full disclosure – I’m not really a recipe person. I like to use them more as inspirations than blueprints, adding ingredients that make sense (or that I happen to have on hand). In this case, however, I tried to stay relatively close to the original recipe and then supplement or replace with the Tunisian spices we had to work with.

Recipe after the jump.