Richard obamaBright and early yesterday (1:04 AM, to be exact), the Washington Post’s “Reliable Source” published a piece examining the Obamas’ restaurant choices and ascribing political import to those decisions.  To bolster the argument, they went to three truly reliable sources: Washington City Paper restaurant critic Tim Carman, freelance food writer Amanda McClement (Metrocurean), and Don Rockwell (of the eponymous message board).

Although we have the utmost respect for all three, we here at Capital Spice couldn’t help but scratch our heads at the conclusion that the article came to: “a pattern of deliberate and politically aware choices.”  That may be a bit of a stretch.

The fact of the matter is that the Reliable Source’s premise is based on a rather selective reading of the record.  Sure, the Obamas have hit a couple of DC landmarks and a few places known for their commitment to local and/or seasonal ingredients, but there are a few glaring omissions and a couple of clunkers that make it hard to say that Obama is doing anything more calculated than any other food-lover in Washington.  A closer look at the evidence:

  • Sure, Ben’s Chili Bowl is an icon in the DC dining scene.  But that’s just it: Ben’s Chili Bowl is an icon.  Anthony Bourdain stopped there.  Samantha Brown stopped there.  Our friends from California who were just in for a visit stopped there (at our suggestion).  Add to that the fact that they just celebrated their 50th anniversary, and you’ve got a restaurant that transcends politics.
  • Equinox – It’s possible to read this one the way Carman did in the Reliable Source piece – as “a nod to one of the deans of DC cooking” – but it’s just as likely that this one was chosen for its decade (another anniversary) of quality cooking and its proximity to the White House.  Equinox is one of the closest upscale restaurants to the Obamas’ residence, and it has been a go-to spot for Administration celebrities for years.  No one cheered Tom Ridge or Condoleezza Rice for their political acumen when they dined here.
  • CitronelleArguably the most well-known fine dining restaurant in the city, Citronelle is on most foodies’ to-try list.  Once again, this doesn’t come across as a calculated destination as much as a highly-recommended fixture on the DC dining scene.  If the Obamas are going to be dining out regularly, it’s probably only a matter of time before they cross off the rest of the Washingtonian 100 Best Restaurants list.
  • Damn Fine Looking BurgerRay’s Hell BurgerSeriously?  This was a calculated move to make sure people didn’t make too big a deal over the Citronelle dinner?  Say it ain’t so!  Can’t two bros just decide to take a quick road trip to check out the place that their staffers tell them has the best burgers in the area?  Maybe this was a ‘man of the people’ stunt…but we’d rather believe it wasn’t.
  • Five GuysAnother local burger; another bit of lofty significance?  Do you really think they hit Five Guys because it’s the ‘forerunner for the fresh fast food concept,’ or could it be that they’re now trying to avoid playing favorites in the oh-so-contentious DC burger wars?  If someone had argued the latter point as playing politics with lunch, we’d have been far more likely to buy in.

But what about some of the Obamas’ choices that don’t fit this theory?  A few of those – not to mention some of their glaring omissions – after the jump. (more…)

santa-stachowskiDear strangers: Apparently I learned nothing about just how dangerous you and your shady vehicles can be while I was growing up.  How else do I explain my recent habit of jumping at the chance whenever I hear the foodie equivalent of “Hey kid – want some candy?”

Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to end anytime soon.  My previous experience with Pipe Dreams chevre and my trip to a parking lot just off of Route 50 to buy charcuterie from Chef Jamie Stachowski in December have been unqualified wins.  With food this good coming out of vans and beat up old Isuzu Troopers, who needs Harris Teeter?

On the Sunday morning before Christmas, I was randomly checking out Don Rockwell when I came across a topic labeled “Stachowski Charcuterie.”  Intrigued, I opened up the thread and found a message from Chef Stachowski giving a time, place and password for people to meet up with him and purchase some of his amazing cured and uncured meats.

stachowski-salami“Would you mind if I took a quick run out to Arlington to buy meat from the back of a truck?” I asked Elizabeth.


In most households, this one word response would be delivered with a tone that said, “What could possibly make you think this is a good idea, regardless of who the chef is?”  Thankfully, Elizabeth was just as taken with the concept as I was, so the real subtext was more along the lines of “Why would you even waste the time to ask me about such an obviously good idea?” 

With an eager smile (mine) and a bemused smirk (hers) I headed out.  What awaited me was about as surreal as you might expect. (more…)