Image by Bravo

When we woke up from our Top Chef-induced food-TV coma last week, we realized that we forgot to save room for dessert!  Top Chef: Just Desserts has been on for three weeks now.  It’s hosted by Gail Simmons and it even features a local competitor, Hook’s Heather Chittum.  How could we ignore it?

If you’ve ever dreamt of walking away from your day job and getting into the restaurant business, Chittum should be an inspiration.  She came to Washington from New York to work on the Hill.  After four years she took a job with Share Our Strength, and then in 2001 her passion led her to L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg.  She has since built a reputation as one of the top pastry chefs in the Washington metropolitan area, winning the award for Pastry Chef of the Year from the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington in 2008.

We caught up with Chef Chittum last Friday and talked about pastry chefs in the spotlight, the interplay between entrees and desserts, and – of course – whoopie pies.

SPOILER ALERT – if you haven’t watched last week’s episode, you may want to stop reading now.  But just until you have a chance to watch it.  Then come back.  We’ll be here. (more…)

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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…)

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…)