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You, Too, Can Dine Like ‘Superstar' at Al Tiramisu;

Media Followed George Clooney Everywhere in DC—

Except for Dinner at Al Tiramisu


By Rozanne Weissman


George Clooney, Chef Luigi of Al Tiramisu, and Clooney's longtime friend and work partner Grant Heslov


Washington, DC, May 2012—Responding to increased customer interest in Al Tiramisu's updated celebrity photo wall and web gallery and intense media focus on celebrities at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner and pre-and post-parties, Chef-Owner Luigi Diotaiuti debuts a "Superstar Dinner" to mark the restaurant's 16th year in business.

For the first anniversary of Al Tiramisu, the most authentic Italian restaurant in the nation's capital, Chef Luigi created a popular "Big Night" feast from the Italian film by the same name, and long-term patrons have been urging the chef to create other special dinners. 

"So," relates Chef Luigi, "I thought about customer questions, like: 'What did the Prime Minister of Italy eat?' 'What did various celebrities eat?' 'Can we have a similar dinner for special occasions?' and 'My girlfriend is such a fan of George Clooney. She would be so impressed if I proposed to her over a dinner he ate here.' "And, I realize everyone wants the opportunity to dine like a superstar," concludes the gregarious Italian chef who talks with his hands.

Actually, "Clooney-mania" was the impetus for increased customer questions which spurred the idea for the new dinner offering. Media went into overdrive with two spring visits to DC by handsome actor director George Clooney for the late April black-tie White House Correspondents' Association Dinner and multiple March commitments.  

Paparazzi and media covered his every March move—testifying before Congress on a humanitarian crisis, dining next to First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House official dinner for British Prime Minister David Cameron, and getting handcuffed and arrested by the Secret Service for protesting at the Sudanese embassy. Covering his arrest, media even reported that notorious prankster Clooney identified himself as “Brad Pitt."

Clooney did give media the slip for dinner at Al Tiramisu, the cozy, joyful Dupont Circle establishment. Dinner for seven included his parents, journalist father Nick Clooney who got arrested with his son, mom Nina Clooney, and four others.

Having dined at Al Tiramisu about 20 times—three times with his parents—Clooney is ensured privacy from patrons though tables are close.  He leaves the food and wine selection to chef/owner Luigi Diotaiuti who describes the superstar as "fun, energetic, and real." The two men share a sense of playfulness and charm. Chef Luigi's guiding philosophy for Al Tiramisu: "I want people to have great food AND a great time."  

Proclaims Chef Luigi, "Now you, too, can dine like a Superstar at Al Tiramisu." That doesn't mean that you will have the exact same morsel-for-morsel meal as any single celebrity. It means that like them you put yourself in the talented hands of Chef Luigi to devise a menu for you based on the season and availability that day, including “insider” signature dishes which are not on the menu. Here is a sampling of what that might be:

Antipasti: Sampler of 4-5 seasonal Al Tiramisu signature appetizers Grilled Portobello mushroom, roasted stuffed pepper, Buffalo mozzarella. May also include Grilled baby octopus, breaded grilled calamari 
Le paste: Homemade Taglierine pasta, shaved fresh white truffles or Arborio rice Risotto with Porcini mushrooms
I secondi: Grilled Branzino Mediterranean Sea bass, extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice
Dolce: Tiramisu Classico (Additional dessert sampling depending on numbers of people)

Prix fixe menu per person PLUS tax and gratuity: food only $75; with paired Italian wines to match the food selections, $95—priced in case your earnings don't yet match that of a superstar.  A certified Sommelier, Chef Luigi could also recommend exceptional wines of rare vintage ordered by wine connoisseurs and superstars. Phone for "Superstar Dinner" reservations: 202-467-4466.

Clooney's March 15 visit to Al Tiramisu wrapped up the end of the restaurant's year-long dual anniversary celebrations for its 15th year and Italy's 150th year as a republic—with cooking classes from the 20 regions of Italy. How appropriate to mark these milestones since Clooney—with his vacation home, Villa Oleandra in Laglio, on the shores of Lake Como in northern Italy—calls Italy his second home. 


Al Tiramisu, 2014 P St. NW, Washington, DC 20036.  Reservations: 202-467-4466. Valet parking seven nights a week 6-10 PM.    http://www.altiramisu.com 

      George Clooney with DCdigest's Donna Christenson

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Where to Celebrate Mother’s Day in The Nation’s Capital
 
Washington D.C. (April 26, 2012) — To celebrate Mother’s Day, Washington area restaurants offer a variety of memorable dining options, perfect for treating Mom on her special day.  From American comfort food to authentic Indian cuisine, each restaurant will celebrate deserving mothers on Sunday, May 13th. 
 
At The Oval Room located at 800 Connecticut Ave, NW, 20006, Executive Chef Tony Conte will be showcasing spring flavors with a pre fixe three-course Mother’s Day menu from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. priced at $60 per person or $85 per person with wine pairings (tax and gratuity not included).  Guests will delight in flavorful and beautifully executed dishes such as Fragrant Steamed Salmon with cucumber, prosciutto, mint and pumpernickel; Hawaiian Sweet Shrimp with roasted garlic butter, pistachio, and lime; Red Beet Ravioli with brown butter, wine syrup and ricotta salata, as well as Pork Chop with licorice, fennel-herb salad and crushed potato.  For dessert, tempting options include Peanut Butter Bavarian with honey roasted peanut caramel; Carrot Cake with cream cheese ice cream, as well as Coconut Custard with lemon-lime sherbet and candied mint.  For additional information or to make reservations please call (202) 463-8700 or visit www.ovalroom.com.
 
Just across the street, The Bombay Club, located at 815 Connecticut Ave., NW, 20006, offers a decadent dining experience with a Mother’s Day brunch buffet featuring a special menu and live piano music.  From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the special Mother’s Day menu will be available for $35 per person or with unlimited Champagne for $45 per person (tax and gratuity not included).  Entrée highlights include Manglorean Shrimp Curry with tomato, garlic and coriander; Kumb Corn Palak with baby corn, chitake, spinach, onion and garlic; chicken Korma with yogurt, onion, cashew, mace and cardamom, as well as Jeera Pulao with basmati rice, cumin and whole spices.  For reservations or additional information please call (202) 659-3727 or visit www.bombayclubdc.com.
 
701 Restaurant, located at 701 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, 20004, invites guests to treat Mom to a special brunch complete with live jazz and ample outdoor seating overlooking the Navy Memorial fountains.  The Mother’s Day brunch will feature a delicious pre-fixe three-course menu served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and dinner from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., for $50 per person (not including tax or gratuity).  Featured brunch items include Vanilla French Toast with balsamic strawberries and lavender whipped cream; Burrata with a grape tomato and arugula omelet and breakfast potatoes and Strip Steak with eggs, smoked tomato sauce and breakfast potatoes.  For dinner, guests can choose from Salmon with forbidden rice, snap peas in a plum wine sauce; Shenandoah Lamb Loin with bourbon ribs, onion puree and crispy green beans, as well as Strip Steak with basil mashed potatoes and charred tomato relish.  Dessert offerings by Melanie Parker include Warm Strawberry-Almond Tart with rhubarb puree and strawberry-basil ice cream; Roulade of Red Velvet with buttermilk ice cream as well as the Chocolate Praline Bar with bittersweet chocolate sorbet and milk chocolate sauce.  Valet parking is available during brunch and dinner service for $8 per car.  For more information or to make reservations please call (202) 393-0701 or visit www.701restaurant.com.

For Mother's Day, Blue Duck Tavern, located on the corner of 24th and M Streets, NW, 20037, will offer its three-course, buffet-style holiday brunch, from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  Brunch begins with first course starters in the open kitchen, followed by choice of entrée and side dishes, and concludes with desserts in the pastry pantry.  Brunch is priced at $90 for adults and $42.50 (tax and gratuity not included) for children between ages six and twelve; those under six are complimentary.  Menu highlights include Prime Rib of Beef with horseradish and natural Jus; Wood Oven Roasted Cod with olive oil, crushed potatoes, fava beans and champagne sabayon; Scrambled Eggs with Rock Shrimp, roasted fingerling potatoes and caramelized Vidalia onions; Ricotta Cheesecake with brandied cherries; Buttermilk Panna Cotta with passion fruit tapioca, and Flourless Chocolate Fondant with bittersweet glaze.  For reservations please call (202) 419 6755 or visit www.blueducktavern.com. 
 
Located at 4600 Waverly Ave., in Garrett Park, MD, 20896, Black Market Bistro will serve delectable modern American cuisine prepared by Executive Chef Dane Sewlall.  An a la carte brunch will be available from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 13th.  For starters, brunch-goers can sample the Black Market Salad with mixed greens topped with fresh oranges, toasted almonds and goat cheese and House-cured Salmon served with brioche toast points and dill crème friache.  Entrée selections will include Hardwood Grilled Skirt Steak and Scrambled Eggs served with roasted Cajun red bliss potatoes and a mixed green salad; Eggs Benedict with house-made angelbiscuit with grilled asparagus and a choice of house made Canadian bacon orhouse-cured salmon, as well as the Croque Monsieur with sourdough, French ham, sauce mornay, and gruyere cheese, grilled to golden brown and served with a mixed green salad.  Prices range from $2 to $14.  A kids menu will also be available for children 12 and under.  For more information or reservations, please call (301) 933-3000 or visit www.blackmarketrestaurant.com.
 
Addie’s, located at 11120 Rockville Pike, in Rockville, MD, 20852, will be offering a seasonal a la carte Mother’s Day menu on Sunday, May 13th.  Brunch will be available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Prepared by Executive Chef Mallory Buford, menu highlights include New Orleans’ Style Beignets; Shrimp & Stone Ground Grits with sweet pepper-tomato butter sauce, herb grits and grilled Benton ham; Smoked Half Chicken served with a buttermilk biscuit, sausage gravy and braised collard greens as well as Eggs Ponchartrain, two poached eggs with Tasso ham, jumbo lump crab meat and roasted corn over an English muffin with stone ground grits and asparagus.  Entrée items range from $12 to $19.  For reservations or additional information please call (301) 881-0081 or visit www.addiesrestaurant.com.
 
Pearl Dive Oyster Palace situated in the heart of 14th Street at 1612 14th Street, NW, 20009, is offering a New Orleans-inspired feast from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 13th.  Prepared by Executive Chef Danny Wells, the menu will feature the freshest, most sustainable seafood available worldwide.  Standouts include Stuffed Brioche “French Toast” with chocolate Frangelico ganache and candied hazelnuts; Fried Chicken Dinner with salt roasted potatoes, braised organic greens and creamy slaw; Wood Grilled Redfish with sage-native pecan butter and stone grits; Pontchartrain with two poached farm eggs, English muffin, blue crab, Tasso, crawfish and cayenne hollandaise, as well as Texas Gulf Shrimp Remoulade with shrimp salad, grilled romaine heart and brioche Texas toast.  For additional information please call (202) 986-8778 or visit www.PearlDiveDC.com.
 
Black’s Bar & Kitchen, situated in the heart of downtown Bethesda at 7750 Woodmont Ave., in Bethesda, MD, 20814, will offer an unlimited brunch buffet from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  Guests are encouraged to go back for seconds as there will be seven different food stations throughout the restaurant.  Menu highlights created by Executive Chef Quanta Robinson include Chesapeake Bay Blue Fish Rillette; House-made Brioche French Toast; PEI Mussels; Artisan Cheese and Charcuterie; Gulf Shrimp; Scrambled Organic Farm Eggs, as well as Herb Crusted Pineland Farms Prime Rib with natural jus, caramelized onions and horseradish cream. The unlimited brunch menu is priced at $33 per person (not including tax and gratuity); $12 for kids 12 and under.  A Champagne brunch option is also available for $45 per person, including unlimited pours throughout the meal.  Brunch will also be available a la carte for a light bite for those with smaller appetites, and prices range from $11 to $16 for featured dishes.  For reservations or additional information please call (301) 652-5525 or visit http://www.blacksbarandkitchen.com.
 
For additional fresh seafood options, head over to BlackSalt FishMarket & Restaurant, located at 4883 MacArthur Boulevard, NW, 20007, for an a la carte Mother’s Day brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Guests can feast on fresh and sustainable seafood dishes prepared by newly appointed Executive Chef Thomas Leonard.  Highlights include Fried Bay Oyster Po’ Boy with field greens, BlackSalt bacon and chive aioli; Wood Grilled British Columbia Salmon with black eye peas, baby greens, and bacon vinaigrette, as well as Louisiana poached eggs with Blue shell crab, crawfish, tasso, and Cayenne Hollandaise.  Breakfast favorites such as English Scones with Devonshire Cream and House-made French Toast will also be available.  Prices range from $4 to $19.  For more information or reservations, please call (202) 342-9101 or visitwww.blacksaltrestaurant.com.
 
Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar, located at 801 9th Street, Suite A, NW, 20001, will be showering Moms with flowers during brunch and dinner service this Mother’s Day.   Moms who dine at the restaurant that day will receive a flower along with a special gift card for $25 off the purchase of $100 or more.  Chef-Partner Guillermo Pernot will be serving up flavorful highlights such as Empanada de Huevo: melted leeks, crispy bacon and poached egg empanada with watercress salad and Bloody Mary vinaigrette; Panqueques: two cornmeal pancakes and bacon served with Cuba Libre’s five year rum-molasses syrup and mango butter; Albondigas Camagüey: chino glazed beef, pork, and pine nut meatballs served with warm hot and sour Kennett Square mushrooms; Tortilla de Huevos a la Cubana: fluffy two egg omelet filled with sour orange marinated pork loin, Genoa salami, ham, provolone and Swiss cheese, as well asOne-Eyed Ropa Vieja Hash: classic Cuban shredded beef brisket stewed with tomatoes, bell peppers and red wine on a hash of Yukon gold potatoes, boniato, maduros and corn served with fried egg, Cuba Libre salsa and tropical chip.  Brunch will be served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.  For more information please call (202) 408-1600 or visit www.CubaLibreRestaurant.com.

The newly opened Italian trattoria La Forchetta, located at 3201 New Mexico Ave., Suite E, NW, 20016, is offering up a prix fixe Mother’s Day menu available from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday, May 13th.  Priced at $30 per person (tax and gratuity not included, the three-course menu allows guests to choose an appetizer, entrée and desserts from Executive Chef Roberto Donna’s featured Mother’s day menu.  Entrée choices include Fettuccine alla Bolognese; Grille Salmon with sautéed broccoli di rabe or the Hanger Steak with salsa verde. For more information please call (202) 244-2233 or visit www.laforchettadc.com. 
 
Ardeo+Bardeo, located at 3311 Connecticut Avenue, NW, 20008, in Cleveland Park will showcase a delicious three-course Mother’s Day brunch crafted by Executive Chef Nate Garyantes.  Highlights include Chilled Asparagus and Leek Soup with goat cheese mousse and pine nut praline; Rock Shrimp and Grits with brown butter emulsion; House-made Black Pepper Fettuccini with asparagus, pickled ramps, smoked ricotta and egg 63, as well as ‘Steak and Eggs’ with barrel cut ribeye, scrambled eggs and roasted potatoes.  Brunch is priced at $39 per person, or $49 for bottomless Champagne or mimosas, and will be served from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.  For more information, please call (202) 244-6750 or visit http://www.ardeorestaurant.com.
 
Assaggi Mozzarella Bar, located at 4838 Bethesda Avenue in Bethesda, MD, 20814, is dishing up authentic Italian cuisine in an elegantly rustic restaurant for Mother’s Day.  An a la carte menu featuring a variety of specials prepared by Chef/Owner Domenico Cornacchia will be available.  Highlights include Vellutata di piselli con uovo soda e prosciutto croccante: Asparagus Soup with boiled egg yolk and sricpy prosciutto; Granchi soffici con burro, limone e mandorle: Local Soft Shell Crab with lemon butter sauce, spring vegetables and toasted almonds; Spaghettini con astaco del Maine in salsetta leggermente picante: Maine Lobster on Spaghetti in a lightly spiced tomato sauce “fradiavolo”, as well as Suprema d’anatra con salsa di cigliege, cipollini e carotine : Duck Breast with fresh cherry sauce, cipollini onions and carrots.  For dessert, guests can enjoy Torta rocesciata di pesche con gelato : Local Peach Tart Tatin with vanilla ice cream.  As a special treat, Moms who dine at the restaurant that day will receive a long stemmed rose to honor Mother’s Day.  For reservations or additional information please call (301) 951-1988 or visit www.assaggirestaurant.com. 
 
At the sister restaurant, Assaggi Osteria, located at 6641 Old Dominion Drive in McLean, VA, 22101, Chef/Owner Domenico Cornacchia will offer a special a la carte menu with Italian highlights which include Cappesante su ragu di piselli e gallinacci: Seared Sea Scallops with spring peas and chantrelle mushroom ragu; Risotto con I gamberetti e porri selvatici: Risotto with wild ramps and Rock Shrimp; Sogliola del Dover in padella asparagi e spinaci: Sauteed Sover Sole with asparagus, Path Valley Farm spinach and lemon tarragon sauce as well as Costata di vitello al forno farcita al tartufo, patate novella e fundhi: Roasted Truffled Veal Chop with new potatoes and forest mushrooms.  As a special treat, Moms who dine at the restaurant that day will receive a long stemmed rose to honor Mother’s Day.  For reservations or additional information please call (703) 918-0080 or visit www.assaggiosteria.com.  
 
Situated in the heart of Shirlington at 2900 South Quincy Street in Arlington, VA, 22206, The Curious Grape Wine, Dine & Shop offers an eclectic Mother’s Day menu of appetizers, small plates, entrées, and desserts incorporating or complementing the extensive wine and beer selection at the restaurant.  An a la carte menu featuring a variety of specials prepared by Executive Chef Eric McKamey will be available.  Highlights include Virginia Asparagus with Meyer Lemon vinaigrette, soft boiled egg and speck ham; Warm Baby Artichokes with spring garlic, mint, red chile and crispy bread crumbs; Lemongrass Shrimp with roasted peanuts, Thai basil, rice noodles, cucumber and tamarind vinaigrette as well as Pan-Roasted Sea Scallops with black rice, bok choy and plum wine beurre blanc.  The Curious Grape will be open from 5 PM to 9 PM on Sunday, May 13th.  For reservations or additional information please call (703) 671-8700 or visit www.curiousgrape.com. 
 
Situated in the Southwest Waterfront at 1101 4th Street, SW, 20024, Station 4 is offering a feast featuring modern American cuisine with a Mediterranean twist this Mother’s Day.  Serving brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Station 4 will be offering a three-course, prix fixe brunch with bottomless Mimosas, Bloody Marys and Nectar & Champagne cocktails for $35 per person.  From 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. a three-course dinner menu will be available for $38 per person (tax and gratuity not included).  Executive Chef Orlando Amaro will invite guests to select from a variety of seasonal brunch items, which include Farm Fresh Omelette with mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, spinach and melted cheese, and the Classic Biscuits & Gravy, country Berkshire sausage gravy smothered on an open-faced biscuit served with two eggs any style and complemented with a sausage patty.  Dinner options include Grilled Fossil Farm Quail with sweet & sour cherries and wilted arugula; Smoked Salmon Tagliatelle Pasta with Alaskan salmon roe and cream reduction; Lobster Paella with saffron rice, peas, shallots and mussels, as well as Beef Tenderloin with poblano peppers-demi, braised morel mushrooms and potato foam.  To complete the meal, Chef Amaro will be serving up delicious dessert options including Mango Mousse, Tiramisu, or a Chocolate Ganache Cake.  Valet parking is available for $10 per car.  For reservations or additional information please call (202) 488-0987 or visit http://www.station4dc.com/. 
 
Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca located at 1100 New York Avenue, NW, is rolling out a feast of elegant Italian fare for a memorable occasion.  Serving brunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Bibiana will be offering a three-course, pre-fixe brunch with a variety of options for $45 per person (tax and gratuity not included).  Executive Chef Nicholas Stefanelli’s Mother’s Day menu includes options such as Aranchini, rice fritters stuffed with pork ragu and provolone cheese; Pasta e Fagoli, cannaleini beans, mussels and small shell pasta; Agnello, slow roasted Boarder Springs Farm shoulder and leg with artichoke and cichercia bean stew, as well as Trota, seared Tasmanian Sea trout with glazed spring vegetables.  For a sweet ending, newly appointed Pastry Chef Jemil Gadea is serving desserts such as Fragola, warm strawberry confit, grappa scented mascarpone, almond crumble and malted milk gelato.  From 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. a regular a la carte menu will be available.  For more information please call (202) 216-9550 or visit www.bibianadc.com.
 
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Complimentary glass of Boxwood Rosé 2011 Release
Saturday, March 31, 12:00-2:00 p.m.

Graffiato 
707 6th Street NW
Washington, DC20001
(202) 289-3600 
 .
On March 31, Boxwood Estate Winery of Middleburg, VA will release its Rosé 2011. Graffiato will be the first and only restaurant in the District of Columbia to carry the new vintage through April 7. Join us for a complimentary glass of Rosé from 12:00-2:00 p.m. and stay for lunch to enjoy several dishes Chef Isabella created to pair with the wine. 
 
Rosé will be available to all guests 21 and over at the first floor bar and in the main dining room. 
 
Tasting Notes:  Rose 2011 Blend:  
Merlot: 46%, 
Cabernet Franc: 35%, 
Malbec: 19%
Pale pink-orange color.  Aromas of fresh apricot ,strawberry, thyme, and star anise, leading to strawberry and savory flavors.  Extraordinary balance, freshness and length.

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VIVA NAPOLEON!

An Adams Morgan Bistro Celebrates its Fifth Anniversary

By Cary Pollak and Donna Christenson

 

Napoleon Bonaparte once said that an army marches on its stomach.  If the Little Corporal were alive today, he might march his troops, in shifts, into the charming restaurant named after him, to show them French cuisine worth fighting for.  Judging by the size of the crowd that jammed in to help owner ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Zubair Popal celebrate five years in business last week,  this Bistro is here to stay and may be on its way to outlasting the 16 year Napoleonic era.  In addition to some special treats, the popular everyday menu of “mini plates” was available.  Salad Nicoise was served in a bowl rather than the traditional flat plate, making its components crowd into one another.  They were all there, however, and delicious. Tender greens and elegantly thin green beans were there, and the tuna was fresh and in the form of bite-sized chunks, pink on the inside and crisp with toasted spices on the outside.  Shrimp scampi ravioli featured garlicky chunks of shrimp inside tri-colored pasta pillows, all resting on a thick, bisque-like sauce.  Seared scallops were accompanied by a lovely reddish beurre blanc sauce.  The well seasoned white wine broth that came with the steamed mussels had us asking for extra bread to act as a sponge, and the fries that were served on the side were extra crispy on the outside while still soft on the inside just beyond the crunch.  Stuffed mushrooms were large and topped with a minced crab mixture that was tasty and piled high.  Like its namesake, the Napoleon Bistro and Lounge is relatively small in size, but deservedly large in stature!

Napoleon Bistro is the second of what will soon be a trio of very trendy restaurants owned by Popal.  The first, Café Bonaparte, opened in Georgetown in 2003 and gained fame for being frequented by Hollywood celebrities and such well-known guests as the Bush twins.  With the charm of a Parisian café, it is especially popular for very authentic crepes and other scrumptious delights, and for its “see and be seen” brunch.  Late summer is the projected opening date for the third location, overlooking the new waterfront park in Georgetown.  Along with Napoleon and Bonaparte, perhaps the as-yet-unnamed restaurant will bring Josephine to Washington, D.C.  


Owner Zubair Popal (left) with "Napoleon", celebrating the fifth anniversary of Napoleon Bistro in Adams Morgan.  

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A WORLD OF GOOD EATING

 Cultural Tourism DC’s Embassy Chef Challenge Had Something For Everyone

By Cary Pollak


Cultural Tourism DC is an organization that showcases the quality of life in the District Of Columbia by creating programs, and disseminating information intended to “increase awareness of local cultural institutions among residents and visitors.”  Its unique fund raising event, the Embassy Chef Challenge, brings together chefs who have earned the 

prized assignment of cooking at the embassies of their respective countries here in our nation’s capitol. The fourth annual installment of this distinctive affair was held recently at the Ronald Reagan building, and featured an upscale silent auction as well as a friendly competition among the cadre of chefs who learned their skills all over the globe.


Each year a panel of celebrity chefs and food critics bestows the prestigious Judge’s Choice Award to one of the contestants.
  This year’s winner was chef Viktor Merenyi of the Embassy of Hungary (pictured at left).  His “slow cooked beef” was roasted at low heat for an astonishing 20 hours, yielding hunks of meat that were tender as could be but still maintained a far more solid shape than would have resulted from a faster “slow” cooking.  Filling out the serving plates were small beads of pasta called “targonya” and decorative cubes of potato hollowed out and stuffed with a puree of cooked tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and mild Hungarian paprika.  



Chef Sondre Bruvik Ellingstad
 from the Royal Norwegian Embassy (pictured center) won the Challenge Denmark award
 named after the country whose chef won top honors in last year’s Embassy Chef Challenge.  He prevailed by making the most out of a group of ingredients given to all the chefs in a separate competition similar to that seen on the Iron Chef television show.  A highlight of his table at the main event was a presentation of cauliflower puree topped with slices of Norwegian salmon and surprisingly crispy capers.  The crispy effect was thoughtfully achieved by deep frying the capers at an unusually low 100 degrees Celsius (about 212 Farenheit) so that they would maintain their crunch during the eight hours between set up time and serving time. 


Devin E. Johnson from the Embassy of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas (pictured right), won the Peoples’ Choice award, voted on by guests at the event, for his Bahamian Seafood Duo.  This was a colorful layered salad including shrimp, conch, mango and avocado-cucumber puree.  Another crowd favorite was Chinese chef Sen Sun's minced shrimp and cod wrapped in a sesame seed studded egg roll skin.  The Chinese display featured an intricate sculpture made of butter, creating true art with an ingredient rarely used in Chinese cuisine.
 


To get a better idea of all that 
Cultural Tourism DC does for our community, please go to their web site at CulturalTourismDC.org.  We think you will agree that this fine organization is worthy of your support throughout the year, and we can promise that the annual Embassy Chef Challenge is one of the most unique and creative fund raising events in which you can invest.  







photos by Donna Christenson

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Embassy Chef Challenge

Join Cultural Tourism DC for the 4th Annual Embassy Chef Challenge: DC’s premier international culinary competition
Thursday, March 8
7:30 – 10 pm, VIP Reception 6:30 pm 
Co-hosted by Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center 
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20004

VIP tickets are available for Friends of Cultural Tourism DC at the $250 level and Embassy Chef Challenge sponsors at the $5,000 level and above.

The Embassy Chef Challenge, held each spring, spotlights Washington DC’s international community in one unforgettable evening – satisfying far more than appetites. The Embassy Chef Challenge is Cultural Tourism DC’s annual fundraising benefit, featuring an international tastings, awards, entertainment, and a world-class silent auction.

See the video of the 2011 Embassy Chef Challenge 

and more details at http://www.culturaltourismdc.org/things-do-see/embassy-chef-challenge

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From The Plains of Virginia

By Richard Sommerfeld

One of the best discoveries at the Fancy Food Show, the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show and the International Wine & Food Festival was Martin’s Angus Beef, which is the supplier of that unforgettable steak you may have eaten at the Equinox, Marcel’s, Brasserie Beck, the Hilton Hotel or Brabo’s in Alexandria.  Bill and Holly Martin are certainly passionate about their cattle and the beef they produce.  With a tenderness that melts in your mouth, exceptional marbling and amazing flavor  like nothing you have ever experienced from your local grocer, Martin’s will redefine how you shop for beef for your next picnic, dinner party, or family meal.

Martin’s Angus Beef produces quality natural beef that is free from antibiotics and hormones.  Their cattle lead a rather bucolic life out there in The

Plainsgrazing on top quality grains and Virginia grass.  Bill dry ages his beef for 25 to 30 days to add tenderness and 

flavor.  Over time, the dry aging process allows for the breakdown of the marbling to enhance flavor.  You won’t get this at your local grocer.   Bill and Holly ensure that they only supply good nutritional value and flavor that will truly excite your taste buds.

Remember those tasteless pot roasts your mother used to make?  Well, I took a Martin’s chuck roast and turned it into the best stracotto (pot roast) with porcini mushrooms I have ever made.  The meat came out so moist it fell apart when cut.  I added some flour to the gravy to thicken it up a bit.


Who doesn’t look to kick their hamburger up a notch?  I took some Martin’s ground beef and, on the recommendation of Bill, just cooked it up without cheese, mushrooms, onions, peppers or any of the embellishments I might ordinarily use.  It was just a plain, ordinary hamburger.  But Bill was right!  From the first unadorned bite it was still fabulous!  Still, I couldn't resist kicking it up a notch and did so with the benefit of Fischer & Wieser’s Big Bold Red Soppin' Sauce.  Unbelievably delicious!!!





You don’t have to go to a fine restaurant to enjoy Martin’s Angus Beef.  You can find Bill and Holly Martin (pictured 
with Chef Jeff Sklaney of Vintage Fifty in Leesburg) with their Angus beef at local farm markets, selling for about the same price as you would pay for beef at your local grocer.  It's available all year round in the District of Columbia, Alexandria, Manassas, Bristow and The Plains as well as seasonally in other locations.   

All year round on Sunday mornings they are at the Palisades Farm Market, 48th Place NW @ MacArthur Blvd (next to BlackSalt Restaurant) Washington, D.C. and also in Old Town Manassas (Pavilion at the Train Station).  
You'll also get Martin's meat anytime at The Butcher’s Block: A Market by Robert Weidmaier, 1600 King Street, Alexandria, VA


Look for them at the spring and summer farmers markets Fridays at the McLean Farmer’s Market, 1659 Chain Bridge Road, McLean, VA .  Additional details about farmers’ markets, butchers and restaurants where you can taste the difference for yourself can be found on Martin’s website.   You can also order beef box selections at www.martinsAngusBeef.com or call Bill and Holly at (540) 253-5264



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THE HAMILTON BRINGS MORE NEW LIFE TO DOWNTOWN DC

The Clyde’s Group opens a spectacular live entertainment and 24 hour dining venue

by Cary Pollak

 

The Hamilton, located at 600 14th Street, NW, DC, in the building that once housed the upscale Garfinckel’s Department Store, is a bold and innovative establishment that represents a significant step forward in the ongoing revitalization of the District of Columbia’s commercial space.  The 500 seat restaurant area never closes, and even rotates its menu during a 24 hour cycle to present breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night offerings.  The subterranean performance room can accommodate 400 guests, who all can have a good view of the live entertainment being presented on stage.

The Hamilton is appropriately named after the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, in that it looks like the Clyde’s group broke the bank to create a beautiful space for visitors to enjoy day and night.  Dark woods and beautiful works of art abound in the restaurant level, while the performance area sports a sleek and modern nightclub look.  This blend of traditional and hip is embodied in the Hamilton’s logo, which is a portrait of the distinguished founding father, looking cool wearing a pair of shades.

We attended a ribbon cutting ceremony for the establishment, which featured DC Mayor Vincent Gray (left) and several other city officials and councilmembers.  These local political leaders were rightfully proud of this opening, in part because the city contributed $4.4 million to the project, in the form of tax incentives and other benefits.  It was done as part of the Mayor’s “One City, One Hire” program, which is intended to create jobs within the District’s borders.  The Hamilton already has hired almost 400 employees, over half of whom are DC residents.



Doing the amount of business needed to keep the huge Hamilton going will be a challenge, but if any company knows how to draw in business, it is the Clyde’s Restaurant Group.  In fact, one of the new establishment’s closest competitors is another Clyde’s eatery, The Old Ebbitt Grill, which reportedly turns away hundreds of customers every day.  The overflow from the elegant Old Ebbitt rightfully will be directed to The Hamilton, which offers a similar dining experience from the same restaurant family.  In addition, there is little competition offering live entertainment in the neighborhood, and virtually no competition outside of Chinatown for very late night (let alone all night) dining.  Here at DCdigest, we are pulling for The Hamilton for all of the reasons cited above.

While The Hamilton is already going strong, the proprietors advise that “the final menu is still under construction.”  Early reviews of the food and service are a bit mixed, but we were impressed with the scrumptious breakfast buffet at the opening event.  The Clyde’s group has a serious commitment to quality food, including farm fresh produce and locally raised hormone-free beef.  In our opinion, you can bet the ranch that The Hamilton will settle into the kind of consistently excellent dining experience that keeps all of their other outlets busy as can be.  We plan to go back soon to be entertained and to try all that we can of the offerings on the menu, even if we have to pull an all-nighter to do it!




         
photos by Donna Christenson
        
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Discounted tickets
for
International Wine & Food Festival 

SATURDAY and SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 11 AND 12

 

DCdigest's Donna Christenson  notes: “The International Wine & Food Festival  is one of my favorite events of the year, bringing more than 500 wines together with foods from artisanal producers around the world and DC’s best restaurants.  Donna invites you to join her with discounted tickets for either or both days, Saturday and/or Sunday.  All guests at the Grand Tasting will receive an etched Washington, DC International Wine & Food Festival wine glass and have the opportunity to speak directly with winemakers while enjoying and learning about a wide variety of wines.  Discounted tickets are available for  www.DCdigest.com readers to purchase at the festival’s website http://www.wineandfooddc.com/  ...along with more details about The Grand Tasting and related events.    

Use discount code 
DCDG10 which takes 10% off the Grand Tasting ticket.    

Time  GRAND TASTING: 2 -6 PM Saturday and Sunday

Cost: $76.50 using above discount code DCDG10 from www.DCdigest.com  (Regular price is $85, Price increase after Feb. 5 to $90.  Discount code DCDG10 takes 10% off either.)  Purchase tickets at http://www.wineandfooddc.com/Buy.html 

 Location:  Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center offers a public parking garage (though a bit expensive). Follow Pennsylvania Avenue NW to 13½ Street and turn right to enter the parking garage. The Federal Triangle metro stop (orange/blue lines) is connected to the Ronald Reagan Building by a covered passageway. The Metro Center metro stop (red line) is two blocks away, and the Smithsonian metro stop (orange/blue lines) is within walking distance.  All guests will need to have a photo ID to enter the Ronald Reagan Building.  There is some metered street parking

In a very heated competition, first place in Thursday’s Sommelier Showdown went to Brent Kroll, Adour (left).   
Eli Benchimol, Chef Geoff's (center) placed second, and Theo Rutherford, The Coterie came in a close  third in a blind tasting to identify nine different wines.

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IT’S ALL ABOUT THE STOUT

Capitol City Brewing Shows a Lovely Dark Side

by JJ Rodriguez and Cary Pollak


In 1992, the Capitol City Brewing Company opened the first brew pub seen in the nation’s capitol since the days of Prohibition.  On December 20, 2011, the Washington, DC branch of that now venerable establishment broke new ground again, by hosting what was billed as a “one-of-a-kind tapping party” to roll out its special Oak Aged Fuel.   Such “parties” are relatively infrequent events, randomly scheduled when the brewers are particularly proud of one of their creations.

The dark and enticing Oak Aged Fuel is categorized as an Imperial Coffee Stout.  It is aged in a wooden bourbon barrel for four months, and is described by the management as having a full body with notes of bold coffee, and big oak and vanilla flavors.  We concurred, but also thought that the most distinguishing feature of this stout was the essence of whiskey that had leached from the barrel.

Another offering that we tried and enjoyed is the Snow Wit.  It is a Belgian style double white ale, made from 50% white 
wheat malt with an addition of flaked oats to create a soft malt base. Two key ingredients are coriander and orange zest, which are flavors used in classic Belgian wheat beer.  This ale is served unfiltered, which accounts for its golden, opaque appearance.  If you would like to pour the Snow Wit and/or the Aged Fuel into your mug, hurry on down. 
Seasonal specialties such as these are always around, but don’t last forever.  The Fuel is particularly limited in quantity, and may not last much past the beginning of the new year.



Travis Tedrow (on right in photo), one of Capitol City’s in-house brewers, was on hand to talk about the beer and answer questions.  In addition to telling us about the night’s featured beers in loving detail, he also described Cap City’s “Core Four” beers: Capitol Kölsch, Pale Rider Ale, Amber Waves Ale and Prohibition Porter.  Travis and his colleagues keep innovating and experimenting, but these brews are their bread and butter.
 


During the evening, we also were treated to three dishes from the Starter Menu: Capital City Nachos, Grilled Chicken Quesadilla and the Capital City Wings.  These were very good versions of those classics, guaranteed to make you want a beer to wash them down and a sink to wash them off.  The Oak Aged Fuel is a rare treat, but both the DC and Shirlington locations of Cap City Brewing are crowded just about every night for a reason.  Good brew, good food and good times are always on tap.






The next Casks Tapping Party will be held at Capitol City Brewing Company in Shirlington Wednesday, January 18, 2012 from 6:00 – 10:00 p.m   Details on www.DCdigest.com on the Calendar page.

For more information on Capitol City Brewing Company, please visit: www.capcitybrew.com or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CapCityBrewDC and Twitter: @CapCityBrewers.

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Ben & Jerry's Homemade Announces 'Get the Dough Out of Politics'

2012 Campaign at December 12 News Conference

By Rozanne Weissman

  Ben & Jerry's CEO Jostein Solheim (from left), Chairman of the Board Jeff Furman, 
Cofounders Jerry Greenfield, and Ben Cohen (at podium).   


What do Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey have to do with Occupy Wall Street, the entire occupy movement across this country, and the corporate buying of US elected officials?

To explain, the top leadership of Ben & Jerry's Homemade — Cofounders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, Chairman of the Board Jeff Furman, and Norwegian CEO Jostein Solheim, who hails from the parent company Unilever, a Dutch-British multinational consumer goods company — staged a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington DC December 12. The goal was both to further explain their support of the "Occupy Movement" as well as to announce their new 2012 campaign: "Get the Dough out of Politics."

After scooping ice cream and talking to the demonstrators at Occupy Wall Street, the executives at the $300 million global ice cream company in 34 countries, which is known for social responsibility, issued an early statement of support of the "Occupy Movement," noting that they share many of the same values of fairness, justice, doing what's right, and reducing economic inequality.

"Those are the values we at the company try to live by," explains Furman.  He notes that Ben & Jerry's, a wholly-owned Unilever subsidiary, has more autonomy than any other Unilever brand and is the only Unilever brand to have its own board and CEO. When the company was sold, the executives ensured that the social mission of the company would be continued in perpetuity.

"What does this have to do with ice cream?" we are asked.  "It has everything to do with it. The 99% are our key customers. They eat a lot more ice cream than the 1%," chuckles CEO Jostein Solheim, a 19 year veteran of Unilever. "We're issuing a call to action for other businesses to support the 99%. Small businesses with 20 or fewer employees are part of the 99%. The world needs dramatic change to address the challenges we are facing. Values-led businesses can play a critical role in driving that positive change."

While cofounders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield talked separately at the news conference, their collective remarks provide a picture of their thinking and of Ben & Jerry's upcoming "Get the Dough out of Politics" campaign:

 

  • Change the corporate role in politics. "We must get money out of politics. Corporations power the political system. They buy elected officials. Some government contracts aren't even bid. Government needs to run without the undue influence of the 1%."
  • Who runs the country?  "Our country is run by giant corporations. The system is rigged. It's not working. It's advantageous for the wealthy. The income of the top 1% is more than the income of the entire 99%. 1% owns 40% of America."
  • The middle-class. "The middle-class drives consumption. We are failing the middle and lower classes that have played by the rules and have nothing to show for it. Corporations have misguided self-interest. Getting more money into the hands of the 99% means they will buy more."
  • Some solutions.  "Level the playing field.  Establish a financial transaction tax.  Rescind corporate personhood. It's absurd. Corporations should not be considered people."

The corporate leaders noted that even if the occupy movement is evicted from current spaces, it will continue through social media, smart phones, and other channels which spread news quickly. Ben & Jerry's has 4 million Facebook fans. They noted that typically new movements are ridiculed until time passes and what they seek seems self-evident.

The news conference appropriately ended with servings of a selection of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. I devoured Strawberry Cheesecake, a new flavor for me.

 

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Paula Deen and Giada De Laurentis led

the roster of highly-regarded chefs and 

television personalities who drew happy 

throngs of foodies to the 
Metropolitan 

Cooking and Entertaining Show













photos by Donna Christenson
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STAGE SHOW

The Metropolitan Cooking Show had a smorgasbord of attractions, but the live demonstrations kept us coming back for more!

by Cary Pollak

In a previous article we promised you that the upcoming Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show would be well worth attending.  The show was held at the DC Convention Center November 4th and 5th, 2011, and on both days we had a great time and found it hard to make it to all the different events that were going on.  The nearly 400 vendors whose booths lined the convention center floor provided an opportunity for a highly entertaining walk up and down the aisles.  In addition, attendees periodically could take a seat in front of the Celebrity Stage to enjoy powerhouse performances by renowned television chefs Paula Deen, Guy Fieri and Giada De Laurentis.  The Beer, Wine and Spirits Pavilion, the Tasting and Entertaining Workshops and the Book Signing Pavilion were only some of the other draws that kept the crowds trying to figure out which way to turn.  The event was better organized than your average three ring circus, so perhaps a better analogy would be a six burner Vulcan stove with all gas jets lit up. 

If trying to decide where to go next wore you out, you could do as I did for most of the two days, and merely set up shop at the Bloom Cooking Stage to watch the almost nonstop array of local chefs and others doing terrific cooking demonstrations.  We are talking stars here.  Many of the demonstrators are the folks who put their restaurants, and our town, on the culinary map.  They had nothing to prove, but left their well equipped restaurant kitchens to show us what they could do with a couple of electric burners and a paucity of equipment.  Truthfully, not every one of the dozen or so performances was a masterpiece.  An ice cream making demo had dead time gaps that were so long that it seemed like it wasn't going to end until hell froze over.  It is equally truthful, however, to say that the overall quality of the presentations lived up to the expectations encouraged by the show's glittering web site.  The cooking tips alone were worth the price of admission to the entire show.

Jeffrey Buben (Vidalia, Bistro Bis), could have sent any one of several underlings that help to keep his restaurants among the most popular in town.  Like many others, however, he appeared personally and put on quite a show.  He prepared his version of fried chicken, which gave us a taste of why Vidalia has been so successful in presenting an elegant and upscale version of down home southern cooking.  He began by skillfully cutting up a whole chicken into ten serving pieces that each actually provided a generous hunk of meat.  One of his "secrets" was to brine the pieces before cooking - not in salt water but in a mixture based on sweet tea.  How southern is that!  He fried some of the chicken in a covered skillet and some in one that was uncovered, so that we could see the difference in the results.  The contrast could be described as extra crispy versus crispy enough but a tad more moist inside.
This was a master instructor at work, as well as a master chef.

Scott Drewno produces dishes worthy of headlines every day at The Source by Wolfgang Puck, which is in the same building as the spectacular Newseum in downtown Washington, D.C.  The restaurant aims to serve up a modern interpretation of Asian cuisine, and a number of dishes on the menu were inspired by the chef's two-and-a-half week trip to China and beyond.  Chef Drewno's swift hands went to work on preparing potsticker dumplings and lobster spring rolls, labor intensive morsels that sprang up quickly before our eyes.  He chose to use fresh ground pork belly in the dumplings because, as is known to chefs around the world, "fat equals flavor."  Sesame oil added a distinctive touch to the filling, but we were cautioned to remember that a little goes a long way.  Only moderate amounts of filling go into each dumpling so that they can hold their shape, but limiting yourself to eating a moderate number of them might take the discipline of a Zen master.

Peter Smith opened up PS 7's after building up an impressive background that included stints with Jeffrey Buben at both the Occidental and Vidalia restaurants.  His presentation of Teason Scallops was fabulous.  His work with the chef's knife was so dazzling that I forgot, for a while, what he was making.  The "tea" in "Teason" actually refers to an exotic blend of marigolds, apricots, cinnamon and more.  He advised us always to buy only dry pack scallops.  Otherwise you might wind up with a mollusk that has been bathing in a solution long enough to quadruple in size!

Venerated local cookbook author Joan Nathan prepared lovely versions of Moroccan Chicken and Cous Cous.  She shared her method of making preserved lemons, which was to slice them thinly and let them sit for one month in a closed jar with lemon juice and salt.  Renowned chef Michel Richard (Citronelle, Central and Michel by Michel Richard) modestly called his scrumptious dessert "soaked (but not soggy) sponge cake."  Genoise cake by any other name would taste as sweet, but the French born chef chose to use a moniker that was more familiar to his audience.  His final cooking tip was "don't cook; make reservations!"  

DCdigest's Rozanne Weissman tweeted live from the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show focusing on appearances in the Celebrity Theater by celebrity chef Guy Fieri, Cheryl Najafi, Creative Catalyst & CEO, CherylStyle, and much more.  All of @PRlady097 tweets are on this link  https://mobile.twitter.com/#!/PRlady007 
The Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show was filled with enticing exhibitors and attractions, but if you, like me, were there and found it hard to tear yourself away from the cooking demonstrations, you know that your time (and money) were very well spent.

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No  “MRE’s” (Meals Ready to Eat) served at this event……………

 by JJ Rodriguez


On November 4 & 5, 2011, 
more than 2500 military soldiers and spouses were invited to attend the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show at the Washington DC Convention Center.  They were welcomed by Jill Biden (left), wife of Vice President Joe Biden, and by Admiral James A. Winnefeld, Jr. (right), who serves as the ninth Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 


The guest chef for the hour was none other than the charismatic and entertaining Chef Guy Fieri (below right), who can be seen on the Food Network several times a week.  He is known for his top-rated show, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, as well as the special series Tailgate Warriors.  In March of 2010, Guy made his first appearance as a game show host on the new NBC primetime series, Minute To Win It.  His demonstrations at the  Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show included dishes such as Mac Daddy Mac n CheeseStromboli & Marinara Sauce and S’more Pizza. 

 

For added excitement, various gift packages such as fine soaps and hot sauces were presented to soldiers in the crowd; which included “wounded warriors”.  Chef Guy autographed both a patriotic-themed apron for a soldier’s spouse and a cast iron skillet.

DCdigest’s Rozanne Weissman provided live tweeting throughout the event, available at  @PRlady097 and on this link  https://mobile.twitter.com/#!/PRlady007 




photos by JJ Rodriguez                     

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Laconiko’s Infused Olive Oils

by Richard Sommerfeld

 

After the Fancy Food Show in July, I wrote “The Pure and Virginal…Olive Oil That Is” which featured three outstanding olive oil discoveries.  Well, I have since found a fourth amazing olive oil at the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show that needs to be added to the list of “must try” olive oils.  It’s Laconiko Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  (For the other three olive oil recommendations, scroll down to see my original article below.)

For four generations, the Pierrakos family has been making its award winning olive oil from groves on the family estate in Laconia.  With 5,000 olive trees, the Perrakos family’s private olive estate is located near the sandy beaches of the Southern Peloponnese in Greece.  This unique location by the coast and surrounded by orange trees gives Laconiko’s extra virgin olive oil its unique and delicate flavor.

I sampled the range of Laconiko olive oils.  Its extra virgin olive oil, retailing for about $15 for a 250 ml (8.5 oz.) is terrific for dipping breads or drizzling over vegetables (sautéed or grilled).  The garlic infused extra virgin olive oil ($22 for a 350 ml. or 12 oz. bottle) really kicked up my lamp chops a notch or two when combined with a little rosemary.  Laconiko’s lemon infused olive oil ($22 for a 350 ml. or 12 oz. bottle) dresses up steamed asparagus or can be used when marinating chicken. 
 In Greece, people commonly take containers to stores and refill them with olive oil.  Not only is it ecological to recycle the containers and cost-efficient to do so, but Laconiko’s “On Tap” program helps to preserve the quality of it extra virgin olive oil by protecting it from direct sunlight and oxygen, the two biggest enemies of olive oil.  When olive oil comes into contact with sunlight or oxygen, its oxidizes and the acidity level increases which then causes the oil to lose much of 


 




its nutritional value, not to mention shorten its shelf life.. 
 Using a fustisa—a stainless steel air-tight can—sunlight and oxygen are kept away from the olive oil.  You can take your bottles to retailers in the Washington metropolitan area and have them refilled.

 By using infused olive oils instead of spices and herbs, you can add truly wonderful flavor to vegetables and meats.  Infused oils make great bases for salad dressings, marinades, and sauces.  

Instead of giving that tired, old fruitcake this Christmas, why not give a gift box of five infused olive oils for $90?

 Laconiko’s outstanding infused olive oils are available at Arrowine in Arlington, Cork & Fork (DC, Bethesda & Gainesville), Unwined, The Vineyard Table, The Bottle Shop, and other unique retailers from Charlottesville to Baltimore.  For more information or to order online, visit their website at www.laconiko.com


photo by Donna Christenson

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CALLING ALL FOODIES:

THE "MET" IS COMING TO WASHINGTON, DC

The Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show, that is!

by Cary Pollak

This impressive event will be at Washington, DC's Walter E. Washington Convention Center this coming weekend (November 5 and 6), and we promise that those of you who attend will be "singing" its praises from the moment that you walk in.  As soon as you do, you will be able to feast your eyes on displays from about 400 specialty food exhibitors, ranging alphabetically from Agave Dream Ice Cream to Wildtree Herbs.  (FYI, agave nectar has been used as a sweetener for thousands of years, and recently has become quite popular among health conscious consumers.)

You could spend your two days well just by visiting the booths and learning about the wide array of products and services represented, but there is much more going on to compete for your attention.  The Celebrity Stage will be graced by nationally renowned luminaries including exuberant restaurateur, cookbook author and television personality Paula Deen.  Also there to spice up the proceeding will be her fellow Food Network stars Guy Fieri ("Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives") and Giada DeLaurentis ("Every Day Italian").  Unfortunately, Jacques Pepin has cancelled all appearances this week, as well as those of his daughter Claudine, because he is having hip replacement surgery.

The Bloom Cooking Stage will feature local culinary stars such as Michel Richard, whose restaurants, the bistro-style Central and the glorious upscale Citronelle, have helped to fuel the steadily ascending reputation of the DC area dining scene.  Also present will be fellow James Beard honorees and/or award winners Jeffrey Buben, who brought us Vidalia and Bistro BisVikram Sunderam of Rasika and Peter Smith of 
PS 7's, to name just a few.

 Washingtonians got a taste of what a grand food and beverage event can be last summer, when the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade picked our town to host the internationally famous Summer Fancy Food Show, while its home at the Javits Center in New York City was undergoing renovation.  The fact that DC and its convention center have been chosen as the venue for another blockbuster food related event in 2011 is a testimonial to the importance that our area currently has in the eyes of culinary professionals everywhere.  

The Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show has appeared in DC for several years in a row now, and with good reason.  We have shown in the past that we can support an event of this magnitude, and no doubt we will do so again.  At DCdigest, our only regret is that we have but two days to enjoy this special show.  

DCdigest's Rozanne Weissman will be live tweeting from the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show on Saturday, November 5, sessions from 9:30 am-1 pm.  Follow her live tweets @PRlady097  from the show.  She’ll be tweeting a private cooking demonstration at the National Beef Cook-off Stage by Mary Beth Albright, Food Network Star season 7 finalist; an appearance by Jer’s Chocolate founder Jerry Swain; then Guy Fieri in the Celebrity Theater, followed by a presentation by Cheryl Najafi, Creative Catalyst & CEO, CherylStyle.   Ultimately she'll cover the announcement of the national winner of the National Beef Cook-off!  DCdigest will re-post some of @PRlady097 tweets soon. All of her live tweets are on this link  https://mobile.twitter.com/#!/PRlady007 

Show hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.  General admission is $24.50 in advance and $27 at the door.  For more information, including a list of and links to exhibitors, and details about demonstrations, tastings, workshops and book signings (some of which require separate tickets), go to the website: http://www.metrocooking,com 

Come join us and see what the fun is all about! 


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Celebrating Julia Child


 by Donna Christenson


What could be more fitting to celebrate the 99th anniversary of Julia Child's birth than to have a fabulous dinner party?  That's just what the American Institute of Wine and Food did recently, at the charmingly French La Ferme restaurant in Chevy Chase, Maryland.  Founded 30 years ago in 1981 by Julia Child, wine maker Robert Mondavi and others, AIWF’s goal is to promote knowledge and enjoyment of great food and wine …and that’s exactly what they did that evening!     



To quote Julia, “Cooking is like love; it should be entered into with abandon, or not at all.”  The evening’s festivities featured a tribute performance, a fun and witty lecture by “Julia”, the talented actress Mary Ann Jung, pictured above.  


AIFW President Carolyn Margolis, Jeanne Kersting Cohen and Don Cohen
enjoyed cocktails and conversation to start off the evening.


Rapt audience members included Paula Jacobson.


                                                                                                                                            photos by Donna Christenson

La ferme's chef and owner Alain Roussel prepared a simple, elegant menu in the Julia Child style featuring 
rainbow trout served with a sauce of white wine, shallots, mushrooms and  herbs.


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Celebrity chef Cat Cora credits Julia Child as a mentor, influencing her style and encouraging her to pursue her dreams.  Below, Cora delivers the keynote address for the Fancy Food Show held in Washington, DC in July, 2011.  

The Summer Fancy Food Show is the largest marketplace for specialty foods and beverages in North America.

                                                                                                                        photo by JJ Rodriguez


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AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF FOOD AND WINE

CRAB CAKE COMPETITION

September 12, 2011

Crab cake comparisons have been the subject of countless discussions and published articles in our area over the years. In this case "our area" means anywhere within a day's drive of the Chesapeake Bay, and probably well beyond that. Crab cake lovers will always argue about the relative merits of numerous restaurants and recipes. On Monday, September 12, however, there will be an opportunity to sample some fabulous crab cakes side by side, and to do a comparison in real time. 

The event is being put on by the National Capitol Area Chapter of the American Institute of Food and Wine. It will be held at Phillips seafood restaurant at 900 Water Street, SW in the District, from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. The cost is $75 for nonmembers of AIFW and proceeds go to their educational programs, which fund culinary internships and scholarships. Crab cakes will be prepared by chefs from eight outstanding restaurants, including PassionFish, Bourbon Steak and Hank's Oyster Bar. 

The AIFW was founded by Julia Child, wine maker Robert Mondavi and others in 1981 to promote knowledge and enjoyment of great food and wine. It's membership includes enthusiasts who love the culinary arts as well as professionals who practice them. If the crab cake competition is sold out, don't worry. AIFW holds many events each year including an upcoming champagne brunch at the Bombay Club (September 25) and an evening with cookbook author Joan Nathan (October 4).  For more information contact Carolyn Margolis at 202-333-0421 or go to AIFW.org/dc

--Cary Pollak

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It is Restaurant Week, Aug 15 – 28 …a great time to try one of Washington, DC’s  many great restaurants at a better price than usual.

Over 200 restaurants are participating and offer comparable pricing:   $20.11 for a Three Course Lunch and $35.11 for a Three Course Dinner.  Check out the restaurant reviews on the DCdigest  Food and Wine page below or the website of your favorite place (or a new one you want to try) and make your reservations!

Enjoy!
Donna

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Fancy Food Show Exhibitors Make Record Donation to DC Central Kitchen
Specialty Foods from Around the World Help Feed Thousands

New York, N.Y. (Aug. 2, 2011) – The 57th Summer Fancy Food Show in Washington, D.C., ended on a high note when exhibitors broke records by donating 153,000 pounds of specialty foods and beverages to area residents in need.

The food was the single largest food donation in the history of D.C. Central Kitchen (DCCK), the Fancy Food Show’s local charity of choice. The items included artisanal cheese, olives, snacks, sausages, spices and other specialties from around the world. It was gathered by nearly 200 volunteers, including James Beard Award-winning chef José Andrés, a longtime board member of DCCK.

“This was a wonderful way to end the show,” says Ann Daw, president of the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, Inc., the show’s owner. “The monumental food donation by our generous exhibitors is one of our proudest traditions.”

The Summer Fancy Food Show is the largest marketplace for specialty foods and beverages in North America. It was held July 10 – 12 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Exhibitors from 80 countries and regions filled 318,000 square feet of exhibit space with 180,000 specialty food items, from hibiscus jam made in Senegal to hand-crafted salami from Salt Lake City. The show attracted 18,000 buyers from top names in retailing and restaurants worldwide to source new products to present to consumers in the year ahead.

DCCK deployed the donated food to area food banks, and to its own kitchens to use in the 6,000 meals it prepares every day. Some of the more unusual items, such as specialty olive oil and pickled vegetables, are being used in the organization’s Culinary Job Training Program.

“This is an amazing donation,” says Mike Curtin, chief executive of DCCK. “The caliber of food, and the largesse, is helping us further our mission in a significant way.” (Read more about DCCK in this Q&A with CEO Mike Curtin published in the July 2011 Specialty Food Magazine: Doing Right at DC Central Kitchen).

The Summer Fancy Food Show moved to Washington this year from its long-time home at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City due to on-going construction. It will be held again in Washington June 17 – 19, 2012, and is slated to return to New York in 2013. In New York, exhibitors have been donating food to City Harvest, a leading anti-hunger charity, for more than two decades.

The NASFT presents two Fancy Food Shows each year. The Winter Fancy Food Show will be held Jan. 15-17, 2012, at Moscone Center in San Francisco. Last January, exhibitors at the Winter Show donated food to Feed the Hungry.

About the NASFT
The NASFT is a not-for-profit trade association established in 1952 to foster trade, commerce and interest in the specialty food industry. Today there are more than 2,900 members in the U.S. and abroad. The NASFT's website for consumers, foodspring.com, provides an insider's look at specialty foods and the companies, entrepreneurs and artisans behind them. For information on the NASFT, go to http://www.foodspring.com/about/nasft. For information on the NASFT's Fancy Food Shows, go to http://www.foodspring.com/about/fancy-food.

(posted 8/2/11 by Donna Christenson)
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Rabbit opens in Clarendon Thursday, July 28 and 
will be giving away free Red Velvet cupcakes from 4pm to 8pm

 

 Rabbit Brings Innovative, Seasonal Salads with Grilled-To-Order Proteins and Red Velvet Cupcakery Confections  

Arlington, Virginia, — Aaron Gordon, owner of the Red Velvet Cupcakery and Tangysweet frozen yogurt shops in Washington, DC, Reston, and Tucson, Arizona is pleased to debut the opening of his next project, Rabbit, located at 3035 Clarendon Boulevard in Arlington, VA.  As an introduction to the neighborhood on opening day, Rabbit will welcome neighbors by serving complimentary Red Velvet cupcakes while supplies last and no purchase is necessary. The restaurant will open seven days a week from 11 AM to 11 PM, and serve inventive, thoughtfully prepared sandwiches and enticing salads served with grilled-to-order proteins. The recipes for Rabbit are the creation of Consulting Chef Katsuya Fukushima.

No stranger to the DC culinary scene, Katsuya Fukushima worked alongside José Andrés for fifteen years, becoming one of Andrés’ closest and most trusted collaborators.  Fukushima served as ThinkFoodGroup’s Executive Chef for Special Projects and prior to that, Head Chef of Café Atlántico.  He played instrumental roles in opening both the critically acclaimed minibar by josé andrés in Washington, DC, and the Bazaar by José Andrés in Los Angeles, Esquire magazine’s best new restaurant of the year for 2009.  Most recently, Fukushima served as Executive Chef of José Andrés Catering by Ridgewell’s, his final position before leaving the company.  

Rabbit strives to provide a straightforward menu with a selection of Simple Salads, Chef Crafted Salads, Sandwich Plates served with simple salads and Warm Dinner Plates that include made-to-order protein, simple salad, and house-made mashed potatoes.  All dishes are served with artisanal breads from a local bakery, which are baked fresh daily.  An assortment of freshly squeezed carrot juice and other seasonal juices will also be available at Rabbit including a boutique selection of wines by the glass and beer.  In everything, the emphasis is on fresh, organic and locally available products. 
 

Standout salads include the Beet Salad, made with fried breaded goat cheese croquettes, orange slices, arugula, pine nuts, pickled beet stems, fresh beets, mixed greens and a citrus vinaigrette; Seasonal Fruit & Prosciutto Salad, made with grilled peach halves (seasonal), sliced prosciutto, ricotta, arugula, toasted hazelnuts, honey drizzle, cracked black pepper and balsamic vinaigrette; Nicoise Salad, made with boiled potatoes, olives, haricots verts, egg, roasted tomato, seared tuna and a lemon vinaigrette, as well as the signature Rabbit Salad made with roasted carrots, shaved carrots, diced carrots, blanched snow peas, peas, mixed greens, pea sprouts, shredded mint leaves, carrot top pesto and topped with citrus dressing.  Prices range from $5.50 for Simple Salads to $10.50 for Chef Crafted Salads.

Handcrafted Sandwiches and Warm Dinner Plates will also be available. Tempting choices include Seared Tuna with roasted red pepper aioli; Vegetable Sandwich with green and red bell peppers, zucchini, tomato, romesco and pineapple; Grilled PB&J, as well as a rotating selection of grilled cheese sandwiches incorporating various artisanal cheeses.  All sandwich plates will include choice of Simple Salad.   Price for the Sandwich Plates and Warm Dinner Plates is $10.50. 

Additionally, twelve varieties of signature cupcakes from Red Velvet Cupcakery will also be available at the Clarendon restaurant.  Highlights include Devil’s Food, a rich chocolate buttermilk cake with Valrhona bittersweet chocolate ganache frosting garnished with a 24K gold leaf; Peanut Butter Cup, delicious chocolate buttermilk cake infused with chocolate chips and peanut butter topping and the Southern Belle, the shop’s best-selling and signature red velvet recipe topped with whipped cream cheese frosting.

Aaron Gordon, a D.C. area native, came up with the whimsical name for the new restaurant while talking with friends about shopping for salads.  “A friend of mine once asked me how long it had been since a good salad was thought of as ‘rabbit food,’” says Gordon.  “I liked the idea of turning this phrase of slight disdain on its head and decided that “Rabbit” would be the name for my newest venture.  To me, Rabbit incorporates many of the traits of the Slow Food moment…providing the highest quality ingredients, cooking them with finesse and care, and presenting them in a rich, relaxing environment. At Rabbit, our chefs will produce food in a timely manner, while presenting the exact opposite of fast food.”

The design firm StreetSense created the rabbit-inspired décor in the 2,000 square-foot space incorporating orange as the distinctive color.  The main finish palette includes slate tile, white surfaces and reclaimed woods.  The dining area is open with furniture that includes contemporary metals mixed with live edge woods and reclaimed woods.  The finish palette is also very natural and organic which is a reflection of the food served.  Rabbit can accommodate 50 guests and offers a communal-style table, which can seat up to 10.  Patio seating for 10 is also available during the spring and summer months, weather permitting.

 
Rabbit is located at 3035 Clarendon Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201.  For additional information please call (703) 243-5660 or visit www.rabbitsaladandgrill.com  

(posted 7/28/11 by Donna Christenson)
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'Fusion or Confusion?' Chefs Luigi Diotaiuti of DC’s Al Tiramisu and Mike Isabella of Graffiato, 
Food Writers Discuss New Century for Italian Cooking in America at Fancy Food Show


By Rozanne Weissman

Washington, DC, July 12, 2011— There were no fisticuffs but there certainly was a difference of opinion at the Fancy Food Show panel, "Fusion or... Confusion? A new Century for Italian Cooking in America," featuring two leading DC chefs and two prominent food writers. 

The big question: Does getting creative and innovative with nonna’s traditional Italian recipes mean giving up the authenticity of ingredients in the kitchen?

Moderator Corby Kummer, one of the nation's top food writers, senior editor of The Atlantic, and recipient of three James Beard Journalism Awards, noted there are some who,  like respected restaurateur Tony May,  who say, "If you were not born and raised in Italy, how dare you!"

"That's not necessarily true anymore, but you do need a good education in Italy to be an Italian chef," countered John Mariani, also one of America's top food writers and author of "How Italian Food Conquered the World.  "A chef who has never set foot in Italy is at a disadvantage," he added.

Introduced as a "traditionalist who embraces the new," Italian-born Chef/owner Luigi Diotaiuti of Al Tiramisu, the most authentic Italian restaurant in the nation's capital, emphasized, "Italian food is not just food or a commodity, it's part of a culture.  One day I will die," he added, "and I will still not know all of the Italian dishes and recipes I discover by going town by town."  
  

Celebrating the 150th anniversary of Italy and the 15th anniversary of Al Tiramisu, Diotaiuti has been teaching regional Italian cooking classes flavored with culture and history. Thus far, starting from the south to the north, he has covered Sicily (photos of- food and blog), Sardinia, and Puglia. The restaurant imports most of its food from Italy, and Chef Luigi said he can generally get anything he needs within 18-20 hours, including on Sundays.

 

On the other hand, acclaimed third-generation Italian-American Chef Mike Isabella of Bravo TV's "Top Chef" fame and runner-up on "Top Chef All-Stars" described his just recently opened restaurant Graffiato as "Italian inspired." He illustrated, "I grew up in New Jersey. I keep the products local and add my own touches. There are American influences on the menu like small plates so that two people can dine and try six or seven dishes together. "

 
Isabella noted he was most inspired by his Italian grandmother, as well as San Francisco Executive Chef Chris Cosentino of Incanto Restaurant and Wine Bar who makes frequent appearances on the Food Network.  Corby asked Isabella whether he got all his tattoos after meeting Cosentino and what his grandmother would say if she saw the tattoos.  Isabella replied that he had the tattoos before and that "my grandmother would cry if she saw them."  

The panel, sponsored by the Italian Ministry of Economic Development and the Italian Trade Commission, was part of the Fancy Food Show at Washington, DC's Convention Center where Italy had the largest pavilion. Italy was among 80 countries at North America's largest specialty food and beverage marketplace which included 2400 exhibitors and 24,000 attendees.


Following the panel, Stacy Jolna spoke about the childhood obesity epidemic. He is the founder of Club EATalian 4Kids, which teaches kids healthy eating and cooking based on the authentic Mediterranean diet from Italy. The new program, with support from the Italian government, began in spring 2011 in Los Angeles.  
 

Similarly, Diotaiuti, in his engaging, entertaining style, has provided a hands-on cooking experience for third to fifth graders from nearby Hyde-Addison Elementary School’s Cooking Club. They cooked gnocchi (recipe and video) alongside Chef Luigi who closed Al Tiramisu for lunch to practice what he preaches:  teaching the importance of preparing good food using healthy, fresh ingredients—plus adding movement for health.  And then, at the table, they toasted the many chefs with lemonade.

 

 

For further information:  Rozanne Weissman, RozanneDC@gmail.com. The author of this article writes film screening and food articles for DCdigest and also handles marketing communications for Al Tiramisu.

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901 Restaurant & Bar

CUISINE Contemporary American

AMBIANCE Stylish, sophisticated, modernist design with an inviting level of lighting.  Sound level is conversational for groups of 2-4, 
but the acoustics may be an issue for larger groups, even in the three party rooms.

RECOMMENDED DISHES Duck quesadilla, Southern style crab cake sandwich, peppercorn lamb chops and the cheesecake, of course.

WINE LIST Varied, with some good choices from $27 to $65 per bottle.

PRICE PER PERSON $30 and under.

HOURS Lunch:  daily 11:00am to 5:00pm.  Dinner:  Monday–Thursday: 5:00pm – 11:00pm, Friday & Saturday: 5:00pm – 12:00am, Sunday: 5:00pm – 10:00pm

LOCATION Penn Quarter area at 901 9th Street, NW, Washington, DC  20001.  Walking distance of the DC Convention Center and 3 blocks from the Gallery Place Metro Station (Green, Yellow & Red Lines).

WEBSITE www.901dc.com

RESERVATIONS Phone 202.524.4433, Email reservations@901dc.com or via OpenTable

 

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America Eats Tavern

 

Opened July 4th

 

José Andrés, the James Beard Outstanding Chef of the Year,

and Restaurateur Rob Wilder's ThinkFoodGroup

 

Opened America Eats Tavern on July 4th to Celebrate

The National Archives Exhibit

What's Cooking Uncle Sam?

 

 

Restaurant Hours Beginning Tuesday, July 5th

Sunday - Thursday, 11:30am - 11:00pm

Friday & Saturday, 11:30am - midnight

 

 

 

America Eats Tavern

In the former Café Atlántico location

405 8th Street, NW

202.393.0812

www.americaeatstavern.com 

Metro:  Archives-Navy Mem'l-PennQuarter

 

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the_rammys_11.jpg

 

 

 

Sponsor the Event • Buy Tickets • Sponsors-To-Date • Finalists 

 

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Sunday June 26, 2011

 

Event Schedule

5:30 p.m. – Reception

A terrific start to an extraordinary evening with delicious passed hors d’oeuvres, delectable wines and beverages and live entertainment. You can feel the excitment in the air as the nominees arrive with good luck charms and acceptance speeches ready.

7:00 p.m. – Awards Ceremony

A lively, theatre-style presentation of the coveted crystal obelisks. As the winners are announced, explosions of jubliee can be seen and heard throughout the room.

8:00 p.m. – Dinner & Dancing

The grand ballroom of the Marriott Wardman Park will be transformed with four international Food Pavilions featuring cuisines from Australia, Cuisine Solutions, Mexico and the Nordic Partners including Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Speciality beverage pavilions sponsored by Republic National Distributing Co. will provide top-shelf drinks including the RAMMY Cocktails developed by the 2011 Mixology/Beverage nominees. Live entertainment during the dinner keeps the dancefloor as full as your belly!

Attire: Black Tie & Masks

Attendees are encouraged to wear masquerade masks to the event.

Sponsorship Packages
Platinum $20,000     Diamond $15,000        Friend of the Industry $10,000     Restaurateur (Members Only) $ 5,000   
Silver $ 5,000      Patron $ 3,500       Supporter $ 1,000

Individual Tickets
General Admission
$200 member
$300 non-member
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57th Summer Fancy Food Show

is coming to Washington, DC …and that’s great news for food retailers and restaurateurs.  
by Donna Christenson

The three-day event, sponsored by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, will be held July 10 – 12 at the Walter E.Washington Convention Center.  

The largest marketplace for specialty foods and beverages in North America, the show features over 180,000 products including confections, cheese, coffee, snacks, spices, ethnic, natural, organic and more.  Some 2,400 exhibitors from 80 countries will be represented, with an expected attendance of over 24,000 people.   With 320,000 square feet of exhibit space to see, be sure to wear comfortable shoes!

At a preview party featuring some of the local prize-winning products that will be marketed at the show, we sampled some of the delectable goodies in the photographs.  Though it was a tough decision, my personal favorite had to be the decadent offering from the Sticky Toffee Pudding Company.

                                                   
 
                                                                        http://stickytoffeepuddingcompany.com

Caprotto Casa Madaio and Cypress Grove Chevre Humboldt Fog cheeses & Puremiel Organic Honey
http://www.cheezwhse.com          www.cypressgrovechevre.com         

www.puremiel.com




Ken Seiter, National Association for the Specialty Food Trade Chief Marketing Director, and 
DCdigest
's Donna Christenson toast the four national winners whose products (pictured below) are from our local area.
 
                                                                                       food photos by Donna Christenson

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DC digest - Donna's Choice:
  Two of my favorite events of the year take place back-to-back this week  ...ZooFari on Thursday and Toast of The Town on               Friday ...details below.  Lions and tigers and bears ...oh, my!    

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FRIDAY, MAY 20, WINE ENTHUSIAST’S TOAST OF THE TOWN IN WASHINGTON DC



Donna Christenson invites you to join her with discounted tickets just for www.DCdigest.com  readers for a spectacular evening of wines, spirits, beer, music, and the best gourmet food the city has to offer.  Hosted by Wine EnthusiastToast of the Town D.C. brings more than 500 wines, spirits & beers together with thirty-five signature DC dishes from great restaurants like Bastille, Eatonville, Ping Pong Dim Sum and Taberna del Alabardero, all under one roof. It will be one of the most memorable events of the year celebrating all things food and wine.

This year a portion of the proceeds will be benefiting the National Building Museum's educational program and they'll have representation for Global Giving to allow attendees to give donations on-site for relief efforts in Japan.

Discounted tickets are available for my www.DCdigest.com  readers to purchase at www.ToastoftheTown.com    The discount code for www.DCdigest.com   readers is Early11 which takes $20 off of the VIP ticket and $10 off of the Grand Tasting ticket.   


 Time:  VIP: 6-10 PM;  GRAND: 7-10 PM

 Cost: VIP  $149,  GRAND  $99  (using discount code Early11 for www.DCdigest.com readers)

 Location:  National Building Museum, 401 F Street Northwest, Washington D.C., DC 20001,  (202) 272-2448  
                                                                         METRO: Gallery Pl-Chinatown Station 

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 James Beard Foundation award-winning Chef José Andrés announces a new collaboration with the National

 Archives and the opening of a new restaurant America Eats Tavern
 
      
by Donna Christenson

Recently named Outstanding Chef at the James Beard Foundation Awards, the food world’s Oscars, José Andrés announces a new collaboration with the National Archives in support of the exhibit, What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? The Government’s Effect on the American Diet, opening June 10th, 2011.  José Andrés and partner Rob Wilder will transform their renowned Café Atlántico restaurant into America Eats Tavern with a menu and environment inspired by the exhibit and the rich history of American cooking.

This temporary American restaurant located just steps away from the National Archives building will open July 4th 2011 and operate for six months during the run of the exhibit.  Offering a new take on American classics, celebrating native ingredients and featuring some long forgotten dishes with recipes and stories collected through extensive research, the menu will range from burgoo to oysters Rockefeller.

 

Café Atlántico, D.C.’s beloved Nuevo Latino restaurant will end its run at 405 8th Street NW, on June 12, 2011. Originally created by ThinkFoodGroup partner Roberto Alvarez, Café Atlántico has had three different locations over the past 25 years and now José and ThinkFoodGroup look forward to finding the next home for Café Atlántico. Minibar by josé andrés will continue to operate its six-seat bar on the second floor of the new America Eats. During a brief break in June, the location’s décor will be transformed from Café Atlántico to America Eats under the direction of New York design firm SEED.  America Eats and minibar by josé andrés will reopen on July 4thAmerica Eats will be open daily for lunch and dinner. Minibar by josé andrés will continue to offer its innovative menu Tuesday through Saturday with two seatings per night, 6pm and 8:30pm. At the end of the exhibit What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? in January 2012, ThinkFoodGroup will begin preparations for the next phase of 405 8th Street, NW, and minibar by josé andrés.

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Celebrate the 150th anniversary of Italy and 15th anniversary of Al Tiramisu with a unique cooking class  
Saturday, 
May 21, 11 am - 2 pm
.  

Chef Luigi will cover the history, culture, people, and three courses of food and three paired wines of Sardinia. It's the 2nd of a series of popular cooking classes featuring the 20 regions of Italy from south to north. $75 all inclusive.  Limited space, so call early for reservations: 202-467-4466. 


A bonus:  Sardinia is one of the world's "blue zones" noted for longevity.  Some of the foods and wines of that region that we'll be enjoying have been touted for their longevity/cancer-fighting qualities by Dr. Oz and others as "super foods."

 

Al Tiramisu2014 P St. NW, Washington, DC 20036 http://www.altiramisu.com

 


                                                                                                                                       photo by Donna Christenson    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
 
Tiramisu, Most Authentic Italian Restaurant in Nation's Capital, Celebrates Italy’s 150th and its 15h Anniversaries

With Cooking Classes Featuring Each Region Starting with Sicily

by Rozanne Weissman 

Washington, DC, April 2011—Combining a year-long celebration of the 150th anniversary of Italy as a United Republic and its own 15th anniversary, Al Tiramisu, the most authentic Italian restaurant in the nation's capital, launches unique cooking classes covering all 20 regions of Italy this month.

“It’s like taking a trip throughout Italy without the cost of going abroad," smiles Al Tiramisu's chef/owner Luigi Diotaiuti who is known for his good cheer and authentic Italian cooking and wine mastery.  Attendees of Saturday classes will gain a real "flavor" of each region—its history, culture, inhabitants, and food and wine specialties—while cooking and eating three courses with wine pairings representing the area.

The first cooking class, Saturday, April 16, 11 AM-2 PM, focuses on Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean and the southernmost region of Italy. Succeeding classes will then move from the south up to the north of Italy. Cooking classes are $75 apiece including all food and wine. Reservations:  202-467-4466.

Cheerful and cozy, Al Tiramisu is like taking a trip to Italy without leaving Washington DC. The most distinctive food is imported from Italy—a large selection of whole fish such as Branzini, buffalo mozzarella, sardines, Parma ham, porcini mushrooms, octopus, white and black truffles. 

Chef Luigi's secret for remaining trim despite being surrounded by pasta and decadent desserts? Like a poster child for First Lady Michelle Obama's healthy eating and exercise "Let's Move" campaign, Diotaiuti not only jogs regularly but also runs marathons—25 full and half marathons to date. It's his goal to run marathons on every continent. He heads to the outback of Australia this summer and then to Africa.

The joint 150/15 year anniversary celebrations will culminate later in the year with a multicourse 15th anniversary feast with wine pairings. And, winners of a fall contest drawing will garner places at the feast.

Check the website http://www.altiramisu.com and the Al Tiramisu Facebook page for additional cooking classes as they are added and updates on monthly events.

Al Tiramisu, 2014 P St. NW, Washington, DC 20036  Reservations: 202-467-4466  Valet parking seven nights a week 6-10 PM.

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Good news about Direct Wine Shipment in Maryland

From: Delegate William Frick [mailto:William.Frick@house.state.md.us] 
Sent: Wednesday, April 06, 2011 
Subject: Direct Wine Shipment

 

Thank you for writing me during the 2011 Session to express your support for legislation to permit direct wine shipment to Maryland oenophiles. I am a strong advocate for the right of adults to purchase wines of their choice and have co-sponsored this legislation each of the last four sessions.

After years of opposition from industry lobbyists, the General Assembly has finally passed legislation to allow shipment of wine directly to consumers and is headed to the Governor's desk for signature. It is not perfect legislation as it is limited to wineries only and leaves out wine clubs and retailers. Nevertheless, the legislation which takes effect July 1st, represents real progress.

Thank you again for your loyal support for this consumer rights issue. Your advocacy over the years is very much appreciated.

Sincere regards, 
Bill Frick

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Al Tiramisu Celebrates 15th Anniversary Year as Most Authentic, Joyful Italian Restaurant 

in Nation's Capital — From Complimentary Prosecco to 'Multicourse Feast’

by Rozanne Weissman


Washington, DC, February 2011—Al Tiramisu, the most authentic Italian restaurant in the nation's capital, launches a year-long 15th  anniversary celebration, starting with complimentary Prosecco (sparkling Italian wine) with dinner the week of March 3-10 and culminating later in the year with a multicourse 15th anniversary feast with wine pairings for winners of a contest drawing.

Reprising its roots, chef/owner Luigi Diotaiuti originally cooked up a celebratory first anniversary dinner from the Italian film "The Big Night” that was so popular he had to add another night.

"Al Tiramisu is my lifeit's who I am," smiles Chef Luigi whose delightful Italian accent and charming, playful style sets the restaurant’s tone. It's warm, cozy, and joyful. Witness the Jester logo, Al Tiramisu’s name (translation "cheer me up"), the “buona sera” greeting, and its cheerful, sunny yellow interior.  "I want people to have great food AND a great time. When people leave happy, I know that what I'm doing in life touches people," adds Diotaiuti. He has a huge scrapbook of handwritten notes from happy customers.

Al Tiramisu is like taking a trip to Italy without leaving Washington DC. The most distinctive food is imported from Italy—a large selection of whole fish such as Branzini, buffalo mozzarella, sardines, Parma ham, porcini mushrooms, octopus, white and black truffles.  Pasta is made on site. "Ragu is made as we did back home— we grind fine first cut meat. We focus on quality, not quantity," he emphasizes, "which we can do in a small space."

Surrounded by pasta and decadent desserts daily, how does Diotaiuti remain slim? Like a poster child for First Lady Michelle Obama's healthy eating and exercise "Let's Move" campaign, Diotaiuti not only jogs regularly but also runs marathons—10 full marathons and 14 half marathons to date. As part of his goal to run marathons on every continent, he ran in China, is heading to the outback of Australia this summer, and then Africa.

Diotaiuti also keeps growing by training in topnotch kitchens in Italy and Paris and perfecting family recipes. Chef Luigi is also a certified Sommelier from the Association of Italian Sommeliers. The restaurant offers 14 different Italian wines by the glass.

Celebrities and well-knowns have dined at Al Tiramisu.  "George Clooney—who is fun and real and also brought mom and dad—has probably come about 20 times," says the chef/owner. Others include Harrison Ford, Placido Domingo, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zita Jones, Demi Moore, Bill Cosby, Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, Steve Case, Wolf Blitzer, and Pelé. Magic Johnson and David Letterman also ordered carry out.

While many other restaurants unfortunately shuttered, Al Tiramisu has weathered tough challenges—the decline of business and tourist travel following 9/11, a lengthy economic downturn, plus two years of disruptive P Street construction in front of the restaurant. "Loyal customers simply came more often and told friends to ensure the restaurant's survival. We owe our success to our customers," says Diotaiuti.  

Expect to see combined celebrations of the 15th anniversary and the 150th anniversary of the birth of Italy as a United Republic. "15/150—there's just a 'zero' difference between us," chuckles
 Diotaiuti.  Check the website http://www.altiramisu.com and Facebook for updates on monthly events.

Al Tiramisu, 2014 P St. NW, Washington, DC 20036.  Reservations: 202-467-4466. Valet parking seven nights a week 6-10 PM.

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RESTAURANTS THAT STILL DESERVE RAVES

By Cary Pollak

A salute to eateries that have outlasted the competition

 

            Washington has become a city of fabulous restaurants. Restaurant Association President Lynne Breaux notes “the national and international coverage we’ve been getting, shows that metropolitan DC restaurants really rock!” Washington’s emergence as a culinary contender is not due to dazzling newcomers alone. While French aristocrats like Rive Gauche and San Souci have disappeared, some of their contemporaries continue to flourish. Three such survivors have contrasting formulas for success.

            The popular Old Ebbitt Grill (657 15th St., N.W., 202-347-4800) was so named in 1856. The original was eventually demolished, but Clyde’s Restaurant Group recreated it over two decades ago. The grand interior evokes the spirit of a Victorian saloon. Although well known for décor and drinks, serious commitment to food quality also contributes to its lasting success. The oyster bar is the best in town. These shellfish are tested extensively, and their elegant presentation in mixed varieties is a tasty tutorial. Burgers are ground fresh daily, and excellent parmesan crusted trout always features local fish.

            The more upscale Occidental (1475 Pa. Ave., N.W., 202-783-1475) opened in 1906 and for 65 years was the restaurant “Where Statesmen Dine.” It, too, was resurrected 20 years ago, by owners who crafted a classical ambiance. Photos of famous diners, like Buffalo Bill and Rockefeller, cover the walls. Chef Rodney Scruggs, who recently returned after a long absence, is doing excellent work. Crusty salt cod croquettes are delightful, and the veal ossobuco is picture perfect, until the tender meat falls apart when nudged by cutlery. This fall, Occidental will celebrate its 100th anniversary, and everyone is invited.

            La Chaumiere ( 2813 M St., N.W., 202-338-1784) has operated in Georgetown for 30 years, an extraordinary feat, especially in this competitive neighborhood. Affable owner Gerard Pain designed both the rustic décor and the menu of French comfort foods. Regulars come so often that they know each other almost as well as Monsieur Pain. Signature dishes are boudin blanc (mild white sausage), and quenelles (pike dumplings). They come as appetizers or entrees, and one is tempted to order them in both sizes at once. Perfectly formed dessert soufflés provide an ideal end to a lovely meal.

            Washington’s hot new restaurants deservedly get the buzz, but the great old-timers still get the business.

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HOLIDAY HIGHS AT HISTORIC HOTELS

By Cary Pollak

Afternoon Teas at Some of Washington’s Most Venerated Lodging Destinations

 

            Indulging in the elegance of an afternoon tea is a delightful tradition, and what better time to partake than during the tradition-laden holiday season?  As for a lovely setting, some of the best are in the city’s most historic hotels.

            Afternoon tea is the upscale repast popularized by England’s upper classes.  High tea, despite the sound of it, is a hearty evening meal enjoyed by the common folk.  Why high?  That term describes the dining table, which was higher than the tea tables.  The afternoon tea tradition began in the mid 1800’s, when the Duchess of Bedford served guests in her private rooms, to bridge the gap between meals. 

            Tea at the ultra-historic Willard Hotel takes place in Peacock Alley.  The walkway’s grand beux-arts surroundings seem to immerse you in another era.  The menu differentiates between real teas and herbal blends – no ”herbal teas.”  This distinction is important for those who prefer tea for its healthful properties. 

            Dry teas are first presented in glass tubes, allowing you to see and smell the elixir you will soon enjoy.     The customary three tiered tray is generously laden with sandwiches, scones and pastries.  Crustless breads envelop smoked salmon, turkey or cucumber.  “Maryland” crab in phyllo, is a fitting diversion from the traditional to the regional.

            The Mayflower Hotel’s afternoon tea was discontinued after Prohibition, but reinstated in 1950.  In the beautiful Promenade Café, as at the Willard, a harpist plays.  The music emanates from an elevated alcove, making one wonder if the hotel has hired an angel with wings.  The impressive array of sandwiches and sweets packs a few surprises, such as a cucumber sandwich spread with a sun dried tomato mousse.  The scone specialty here is one studded with tasty black currents. 

            If ornate, spacious settings are not your cup of tea, try the elegant Henley Park Hotel.  In this Tudor style structure, patrons are served in an intimate eight sided room, which has as many seats as walls.  At holiday time a stately evergreen is set up, but the room is not large enough to accommodate both tea and tree, so guests are served elsewhere.  The food offerings for the “Royal Tea” (a play on words?), are not as generous as some, but include interesting multi-layered sandwiches, and wonderful sugar-crusted blueberry scones.  The inclusion of a glass of Kir Royal makes this selection a bargain at $25.

            The Jefferson, built in 1923, may be the city’s premier luxury boutique hotel.  Tea is served in a clubby environment with alcoves for those who like privacy.  GM Jonathan Heath, has been implementing changes, such as procuring creative serving pieces for the afternoon tea.         The menu includes an uncommon white tea, made from leaves that have simply been steamed and dried.  The beverage is properly pale yellow in color and light in taste.  Among the delicacies are raisin-filled “Jefferson scones,” served warm, just out of the oven. 

            Each of these hotels puts on an afternoon tea that pleasures all the senses in a beautifully historic setting.  Take a break during the holidays or any time, and be their guest, if only for a few hours. 

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CHEFS WHO CARE

By Cary Pollak

A recognition of the many professionals who cook for causes

 

             Everyone knows what long hours go into running a restaurant.  Less well recognized is the astonishing amount of time and talent that our local chefs donate to area fundraisers. Restaurant participation is sure to attract crowds. Thus, survey results show that the average restaurant receives about 75 requests a year from community groups. An impressive 90% of these eateries reply favorably.
            No city boasts more responsive restauranteurs than our own. Last year's Dine for America benefit raised millions for Red Cross hurricane relief. 65 local restaurants participated, outnumbering counterparts in Philadelphia and L.A., and equaling New York. Washington's cooking elite swarm to events like National Zoo's Zoofari, Share Our Strength's Taste of the Nation, the Design Center's Capitol Cooks,  Humane Society's Sugar and Champagne, March of Dimes' Signature Chefs, and Food and Friends' Chef's Best. Attend them, and you'll never have felt so good about eating so well!
            Teatro Goldoni's Fabrizio Aielli (1909  K St., N.W., 202-955-5584) exemplifies the generosity of these culinary contributors.  He constantly assists numerous causes, from Heart Association to saving the tiger, and his web site invites even more to apply. His wife, Ingrid, was the Leukemia Society's Woman of the Year for fund raising prowess. Robert Weland of Poste (555 8th St., N.W., 202-783-6060), cares about local farmers, animal rights, and the staff that helped him earn a stellar reputation.  In addition to contributing to many local events, his annual Toast at Poste benefits juvenile diabetes research, because that affliction struck one of his servers. 
            DC establishments recently recognized in the National Restaurant Association's Restaurant Neighbor Awards include Lebanese Taverna (multiple locations, 703-841-1501), whose offerings were valued at well over $100,000 last year alone, and Chef Geoff's (13th & E Sts., N.W., 202464-4461), whose creative impulse took the form of "Yappy Hours" to benefit the Humane Society. So dine out often. Our continued support is what enables these goodhearted donors to keep contributing to the community.


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FOOD FLIGHT
A unique approach to dinner at the Inn at Little Washington

 by Cary Pollak

The “greeting” on the web site for the famous Inn at Little Washington starts with “[F]or some The Inn is a romantic fantasy world far removed from the harsh realities of modern day life.”  Our version of the fantasy began with being removed from Washington, DC by helicopter, headed for a fabulous dinner in an Elysian setting.

This memorable evening came courtesy of Rebecca Klemm, who had decided to make a generous donation to the Washington Performing Arts Society, by attending their gala and purchasing something spectacular to share with a few friends.  The helicopter outing was an auction item and her bidding strategy was simple: the sky’s the limit! 

WPAS gala proceeds fund young artists who sometimes grow up to perform at the galas.  One recent example is Wynton Marsalis.  The helicopter adventure was donated by Scott Kaprowicz, who happens to hold the record for the fastest helicopter trip around the world. 

Our trip was not made at record speeds, but was like a leisurely amble that allowed us to enjoy the lush topography of the Virginia Piedmont.  At helicopter height, trees, livestock and grand homes looked delightfully like miniatures in an elaborate model train display.  

Upon landing we were escorted to the Inn, where champagne and nibbles whetted our appetites in a graceful living room.  Our first treat at the dinner table was popcorn flecked with grated black truffles, and served in movie-house style cardboard boxes.  This mixture of whimsy and elegance was prominent throughout the evening.  

Also prominent were the creative accompaniments that appeared alongside the main offerings on the plates.  Examples were little cubes of ice wine jelly that adorned the hot and cold foie gras, and the sake-yuzu sorbet that was a counterpoint to the spicy tuna appetizer. The fricassee of lobster came with tiny brown morsels that were delicious but unrecognizable, until I turned them over and saw stems – “clam shell” mushrooms! 

The carpaccio of herb crusted lamb was so beautiful that I didn’t know whether to eat it or have it lacquered and framed.  Paper thin medallions of meat with black perimeters and red centers were fanned out in a display that looked like a peacock’s tail.  An adjacent thick stripe of green looked as if painted on with a brush.  It turned out to be pesto made dense by the infusion of brioche bits.  Small scoops of “Caesar salad ice cream” were melting enough to add pretty white stripes to the plate.  Happily, I chose to eat it. 

After dinner we got a private tour of the kitchen by chef-owner Patrick O’Connell.  It is an inviting mixture of high tech and hominess.  A portrait of the smiling chef with his departed Dalmatians hangs not far from a large, programmable oven that sits atop a counter.  It is a Vulcan, made in France to the Inn’s specifications, and when built, was the only one of its kind on earth. 

From our beautiful view on the flight down, to the top notch cuisine, ambiance and equipment that make the Inn so special, this was an evening that left us feeling on top of the world.

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RESTAURANT REVIEWS

Bistro Bis

The modern, immaculate interior of Bistro Bis was created by the designers of those hip restaurants at the other end of the alphabet, Zola and Zatinya.  Its look and capitol hill location make power brokers love to visit.  The French accented Bis, along with the All American Vidalia, are chef Jeffrey Buben's upscale gifts to Washington.  At Bis, the Gateuax de Crabe appetizer actually combines favorites from Spain and Maryland.  Delicious crab cakes and piles of microscopically minced vegetables tread a bright puree of gazpacho.  Duck liver parfait features a slice of pate, plated (not layered) with duck confit, greens and apricot marmalade.  Lamb chops Nicoise are thick and cut from the loin.  They are accented by olives and tangy goat cheese polenta.  The haricot verts promised on the menu, however, were missing without mention.  Monkfish Crecy is doused with a carrot-coriander sauce that tastes of neither but is sublime nonetheless.  Lemon cake Provencale is dense, moistened (interestingly) with olive oil, and topped with a smooth warm meringue.  Fresh and pureed raspberries, and dots of lemon cream help to adorn the plate.  The white chocolate-espresso bombe bursts onto your taste buds, leaving them in shock and awe.  A rounded delicate mousse tops a dense fudge-like "truffle torte," while nearby, "chocolate silk" ice cream melts luxuriously onto a thin, lacey cookie.  Want a 10 course tasting menu?  You wouldn't be sorry (until later) if you made it all desserts.

 

Vidalia

What do you get when you cross a classically trained chef with a wife from North Carolina?  Jeffrey Buben's famous Vidalia, an upscale American restaurant with a Southern accent.  Crab cakes, offered as both appetizer and entree, are dense with meat and have just enough flavorful binder to keep them together.  Sugar and spice accompaniments come in the form of a sweet onion-cucumber slaw, and “old bay” potato chips.  The appetizer special of snapper ceviche, prime beef tartar and caviar is a fabulous display of raw talent.  Crustaceans that have never been frozen, and with heads still on, are featured in the deservedly popular shrimp and grits entree.  Crispy-skinned squab is served with chestnut puree, and tender ravioli, filled with celery root and apples.  The textures and flavors of the dish play together beautifully.  By this time, onions have appeared in a variety of ways, starting with the delicious onion marmalade that accompanies the bread basket.  It is thus all the more impressive that the signature lemon chess pie has flavor so intense that it easily stands up to the bold dishes that came before.  Equally distracting and delicious is the harvest apple dessert, which is a closed and rounded “hand pie” with ginger flavored cream anglaise.  It is plated with a shooter of applejack brandy masquerading as shot of beer in a miniature pilsner glass with froth on top.  If the way to your heart is through your stomach, Vidalia just might bring a tear to your eye.

 

Nina's Dandy

The menu on the cruise ship Nina's Dandy, consists entirely of time tested favorites that range in execution from decent to delightful. It is the overall dining experience, however, that makes the evening memorable. You are greeted with crackers, and soft cheddar cheese served in a plastic cup so flimsy that it keels over with each dip of the spreading knife. Don't abandon ship just yet, though, because the next offering is a small plate of fruits so pretty that you might grab your camera before your fork. Each course comes out at the speed of a jet ski, with all diners being served at roughly the same time. It is thus all the more impressive that the generous filet of salmon was fished out of the poacher while still underdone, exactly as ordered. The Cornish hen, however, was rather dry. Its wild morel sauce was rich and pungent, but filled with brown flecks, instead of recognizable pieces of mushroom. Still, as you float by the most beautiful sights in Washington, everything seems to taste just dandy. Desserts are from a good local bakery. Chocolate cake is dark and dense, and the excellent apple pie has large slices of fruit, well balanced between sweet and tart. Overall, the kitchen on Nina's Dandy does its part in ensuring that you will have a lovely time right here on our home town river.

 

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12/23/10

Is It Time for an Oil Change in the Kitchen?

By HAROLD McGEE

WHAT’S the best oil for everyday frying? Some markets where I shop offer more than a dozen oils, from argan and avocado to tea seed and walnut. I’d long figured that the choice is a matter of taste and price. I usually use canola oil because it’s neutral in flavor, a good source of omega-3s and inexpensive. Like soy oil, it costs about a dime a tablespoon, whereas extra-virgin olive oils can run well over a dollar.

Partisans of the olive maintain that a high-quality extra-virgin oil brings its special flavor and health benefits to foods cooked in it. More recipes now suggest it for frying and other high-heat techniques, not just for last-minute drizzling. But does it make enough difference that it’s worth a tenfold premium in price?

I investigated the flavor question by heating 15 oils — 4 olive and 11 seed oils — with nothing else in the pan, so I could taste what heat alone does to them. And I served some of them to trained oil judges.

We were surprised at how thoroughly heat obliterated the flavors in cooking oil until they all tasted more or less the same. Even prize-winning, and costly, extra-virgin olive oils lost much of what makes them special, though they retain their apparently healthful pungency. To get food with the green and fruity flavor of good olive oil, it seems more economical and effective to fry with an inexpensive refined oil and drizzle on a little fresh olive oil after cooking.

Many oils have little or no flavor to begin with, as they’ve been refined to remove almost everything except the oil molecules. This is true of most oils extracted from seeds, including canola and soy. Fresh out of the bottle, the nine refined seed oils I tested were almost odorless. Some seed oils, including peanut and sesame, are also sold in unrefined or partly refined form. These are usually darker and can carry the flavor of their sources. They’re also more sensitive to heat than refined oils. They start breaking down, developing unpleasant flavors and giving off smoke at lower temperatures. Heated in a frying pan, the two unrefined seed oils I tested began to smoke between 375 and 390 degrees, at the upper end of the frying range. The refined oils didn’t start smoking until 475 degrees or higher.

When heated to a moderate frying temperature of 350 degrees, only the unrefined sesame oil had a distinctive flavor. The other 10 seed oils tasted about the same, slightly nutty and, well, fried.

Unlike seed oils, olive oils are pressed from fresh fruits, so their flavors can vary tremendously. Of the four tested, one was an inexpensive “light” olive oil, made primarily of neutral refined oil, with very little aroma.

The other three were labeled “extra virgin,” a standard that in theory signifies an unrefined oil of good quality but in practice doesn’t signify much at all. The first two were a fruity Spanish oil and a spicy, pungent one from California. Both were international medal winners and priced accordingly, at a dollar or more a tablespoon. The third was a suspiciously inexpensive bottle from an upscale supermarket, a blend from several Mediterranean countries. It smelled stale and had a strong odor of fermented olives. These qualities should have disqualified it from extra virgin status because they indicate that the oil was made from damaged fruit.

But oil appeal is on the palate of the taster. According to a forthcoming study from researchers at the University of California, Davis, many California consumers actually like and expect these off flavors in olive oils, probably because they’re used to them and have had little or no experience of fresh, well-made oils.

The refined olive oil and two of three extra-virgin olive oils I tested began to smoke at a respectable 450 degrees. The inexpensive extra-virgin oil started to smell of rubber and plastic almost as soon as it became warm, and fumed at 350 degrees.

After I’d heated them, none of the olive oils had much olive flavor left. In fact, they didn’t taste much different from the seed oils.

To get a set of more expert second opinions, I took the olive oils to a meeting of the University of California’s olive oil research group. This panel of trained tasters evaluates oils from all over the world to provide guidance to California’s young olive-oil industry.

In a blind tasting of the four unheated olive oils, the six tasters easily distinguished the medal winners from the cheaper oils and found many interesting aroma notes in them, from tea and mint to green banana, stone fruit and cinnamon.

For the second blind tasting, I heated each oil to 350 degrees for five minutes. I also heated a sample of the Spanish oil more gently, to 300 degrees, to see whether it might retain more olive flavor.

The panelists said nothing as they swirled and sniffed the heated oils in their small tasting glasses, tinted blue to eliminate any consideration of color, then sipped, slurped and spat. The first spoken comment, immediately seconded by most of the panel members, was, “These oils all taste like popcorn.” In fact the panel ranked the heated light oil higher than the heated pricey California extra-virgin oil, whose pungency was no longer balanced by a spicy aroma and had become overbearing.

Even the defective supermarket oil had become much less offensive. This surprise led one panelist to recall that heating is part of the refining process that manufacturers use to deodorize raw oils. Cooking clearly also drives aromas out of the oil and into the air. That helps explain the harsh smell that filled our kitchen decades ago whenever my mother started to make spaghetti sauce. I hated that aroma, which came from the poor oil she must have used, but I loved her spaghetti sauce. 

While it’s understandable that many people have learned to enjoy off flavors in oils, there’s a good reason to recognize staleness and rancidity for what they are and avoid them.

All cooking oils are fragile. Fresh oil begins to deteriorate as soon as it’s exposed to light, heat, oxygen or moisture, all of which can break intact oil molecules into fragments. One set of fragments is responsible for the hints of cardboard, paint and fish that we smell in stale, rancid oil.

It turns out that stale aromas, pleasant fried aromas and unpleasant scorched aromas all come from oil fragments called aldehydes that are more or less toxic to our cells, whether we eat them or inhale them during cooking. Frequent exposure to frying fumes has been found to damage the airways of both restaurant and home cooks. Fresh oils, and in particular fresh olive oils, generate the fewest toxic aldehydes.

So the choice of everyday frying oil should indeed be a matter of taste. Choose a cheap or expensive oil as you like. Fans of extra-virgin olive oil willingly pay more for its provenance and polyphenols as much as its aroma. But learn to taste the difference between good fresh oils and stale or funky ones. Buy small containers that you’ll use up in a few weeks, keep them dark and cool, and taste before you fry.

 By HAROLD McGEE

THE CURIOUS COOK  Published in The New York Times
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11/14/2010    METROPOLITAN COOKING & ENTERTAINING SHOW
There's still time today to see celebrity chefs Paula Deen, Bobby Flay and Rachael Ray, as well as cooking demonstrations by local chefs.   But our favorite part is trying all the great food and cooking products!

Look for some of our new favorites:

Feisty Mama - for sassy salsa (don't miss their So Very Pineapple Salsa!) and for drink & dip mixers.  www.FeistyMamaSalsa.com
Peri-Peri Good spiced peanuts - an unusual spice with an unusual story behind it
Le Grand pesto sauces and tapenades - all fresh, flavorful ingredients to quickly turn simple meals into something gourmet fabulous.  Clever                 packaging - squeezable, stay-fresh pouch with a twist-off cap www.maisomlegrand.com
Pecan Jack's Snacks - for caribbean rum pralines and a range of decadently delightful pecan and chocolate concoctions. www.pecanjacks.com
Eco Gifts -handmade soaps that look good enough to eat, like beautiful slabs of fudge ...in marvelous, exotic scent combinations.  Also perfumes,             lotion bars & wooden heirloom gifts ...all mindfully-made in Alexandria, Virginia  www.truly-life.com
Leonardo & Roberto's Gourmet Blends - olive oils & vinegars in flavor combinations that will inspire your culinary creativity  www.gourmetblends.us

Some are now in local stores, while others are available online.  Check back for more details later!
--Donna Christenson
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Sunday, Nov 14, 2010  
TimePresenterInfo
11:00am - 11:45amNicholas StefanelliBibiana
12:00pm - 12:45pmCarla Hall / Dr. Patricia Davidson Alchemy by Carla Hall / Washington Hospital Center 
1:00pm - 1:45pmRamon MartinezJaleo
2:00pm - 2:45pmVictor AlbisuBLT Steak
3:00pm - 3:45pmPaul StearmanMarcel's
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FAVORITE FOOD NETWORK STARS HEADLINE
THE 2010 METROPOLITAN COOKING & ENTERTAINING SHOW 

Paula Deen, Bobby Flay, Rachel Ray plus DC chefs showcase their culinary skills

 Washington, DC (October 3, 2010) – On November 13 and 14, 2010, the Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show will return to the Washington Convention Center for it’s fifth  year with special events featuring Food Network and Cooking Channel stars and DC-based chefs hosting cooking demonstrations.  The show takes place from 10 am to 7 pm, Saturday, November 13 and 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday, November 14.

In addition to appearances by headliners Paula Deen, Bobby Flay and  Rachael Ray, the show will offer cooking demonstrations by award-winning local and national chefs, a food and wine pairing with Chef Carla Hall & the Wine Coach® Laurie Forster, Cocktails with Todd Thrasher, Savvy Holiday Entertaining with Tara Wilson, product sampling and sales from 300+ exhibitors, the Beef Check Off Tastings and Entertaining workshops, the Just for Kids cooking area, and a beer, wine and spirits tasting pavilion.  General admission tickets are $20 in advance and $25 on-site. Children ages 4 – 12 are $10 in advance and $13 on-site. Children 4 and under are free. General admission includes demonstrations and entertaining presentations on the exhibit floor. Additional tickets are required for the feature presentations in Celebrity Theater, the Food & Wine Pairing, Cocktails with Todd Thrasher, Savvy Holiday Entertaining with Tara Wilson, Just for Kids Interactive Cooking Area, and the Beer, Wine & Spirits Tasting Area.

 DC area chefs presenting culinary demonstrations include:

Chef Victor Albisu, BLT Steak

Chef Cathal Armstrong & Todd Thrasher, Restaurant Eve, Eammon’s, The Majestic

Chef Arthur Cavaliere, Central Michel Richard

Chef Scott Drewno, The Source by Wolfgang Puck

Chef Todd Gray, Equinox

Chef Carla Hall, Alchemy Caterers & Top Chef Season 5 Contestant

Chef Mike Isabella, Graffiato & Top Chef Season 6 Contestant

Chef Ramon Martinez, Jaleo

Chef Clayton Miller & Pastry Chef Chris Ford, Trummer’s On Main

Chef Patrice Olivon, L’Academie de Cuisine

Pastry Chef Travis Olson, 1789 Restaurant

Chef Paul Stearman, Marcel’s

Chef Nicholas Stefanelli, Bibiana

 

For more information about the show and to purchase tickets, please visit http://www.metrocooking.com.

Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show – Washington Convention Center

Saturday November 13 – 10 am – 7 pm - Sunday November 14 – 10 am – 5 pm

General admission, $20 advance; $25 on-site; children 4-12, $10 advance, $13 on-site

Children 4 and under free

ticket purchase 1.888.695.0888;  or for information 703.321.4890


posted 10/27/10 __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

First-ever "national wine" show comes to Washington

Premium content from Washington Business Journal - by Missy Frederick

Date: Thursday, October 28, 2010

With the plethora of wine shows, wineries, wine magazines and wine lovers in America, it would seem only intuitive that the U.S. would have its own national wine exhibition. Turns out it doesn’t, and Alex Papajohn is doing something about it.

Papajohn and his Richmond company, Variant Events, will host the National Wine Experience Nov. 20 at D.C.’s Newseum. Though the inaugural event will be a relatively small gathering of around 2,500 individuals, Papajohn’s goal is to transition it into a full-time expo next year at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, which can accommodate a maximum of 42,000 people at once.

“I thought it was about time,” Papajohn said of his new event. “Every state has at least one winery, and with the rapidly growing industry and the quality level starting to get good, it made sense.”

Papajohn started planning the event about two years ago, looking at potential locations and regulatory issues. He is still hoping the D.C. Council passes a piece of legislation it introduced earlier this year which would allow wine to be purchased from the event and taken home. He says he is modelling the event after Vinitaly, a Verona-based event which draws more than 150,000 visitors to Italy each year.

About 100 wineries will be in attendance for this November’s event, including some well-known names such as Robert Mondavi’s California winery, the Biltmore Estate winery in North Carolina, and racecar driver Jeff Gordon’s Jeff Gordon Cellars. Twenty-five states will be represented.

Variant Events is investing more than $250,000 in the event. The 4-year old company is responsible for such events as the Virginia Wine Expo and the Monticello Wine Experience. The Virginia Wine Expo drew about 350 wineries as participants in its second year in February, with events spanning three days.

“We’re taking 100 percent of the financial risk on this,” he said. The event also is drawing corporate sponsors such as USA Today and will earn revenue through ticket sales.

America’s wine industry has been showing signs of maturity in recent years. The U.S. right now has approximately 7,400 wineries nationwide. Virginia has emerged as a leader in wine tourism, with more than 160 wineries. Maryland has 41.

This year’s event will be more focused on a consumer audience, while the larger event next year will appeal to both industry representatives and wine drinkers alike, he said. He also wants to strike up partnerships with D.C.’s embassies next year for related events surrounding the expo.

“I’m hoping it will become a major economic development opportunity for Washington,” he said.



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 D.C.'s hottest new restaurant and rum bar Cuba Libre's owner and president of GuestCounts Hospitality Barry Gutin, chef John Damilio, marketing director Emily Jarmuth and general manager Amnon Pick 



Cuba Libre offers a taste of Cuba most of us would otherwise never experience.  The newly-opened restaurant and bar boasts the best ever Mojitos ... and the secret is freshly-pressed sugar cane juice made on-site each day.

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Restaurant Reviews

CAFE ASIA:

When it comes to choosing offerings from the wide array of asian cuisines, the menu at the downtown Cafe Asia gives you more ways to go than a Chinese checkers board. Never mind that the modern setting is uninspired, and in need of some fresh paint. Here, food is emperor, and will command your attention. Start with the sushi list. One of its stars is the "spider roll," featuring crispy deep fried soft shell crab, peeking out of a cone shaped seaweed wrapper. Indonesia is honored with a choice of meaty satays, accompanied by a good traditional peanut sauce, and marinated chunks of carrots, cucumbers and (watch out now) fiery jalapenos. "Ikan pepes" is a delightful tumeric infused trout filet, that waits inside of a banana leaf. Once exposed, the entree is heralded by an intoxicating cloud of basil and lemon grass, two hallmarks of southeast asian cooking. "Gway tio" is a combination of rice noodles, Chinese roast pork, and mussels. One taste of its complex brown sauce makes clear that the "sweet soy sauce" mentioned on the menu is not the only potion in the pot. The chef confirms that both mushroom soy and oyster sauce have provided a savory counter point. Long may yin and yang live in harmony! The fried banana drenched in honey, is a clumsy dessert. Try ending the meal instead, with the refreshing green tea ice cream.  --Cary Pollak


A.V.:

Long time Washingtonians know two things about A.V. Ristorante Italiano:

it has always been the subject of highly mixed reviews, and it has been a successful family run restaurant for decades. The theme of contrasting impressions is amplified on warm nights when dinner is served both in the dark, traditional dining room, and on the patio in this changing neighborhood near the posh convention center. You would do well to start with the antipasto, the quality of which is unambiguous. Lean and supple slices of prosciutto are draped over sections of melon. Paper thin rounds of salami and wedges of robust imported provolone help to complete the array of shapes and colors. Each leaf of the whole stuffed artichoke appetizer carries a bread crumb and olive stuffing - great fun for those who like to play with their food. Classic saltimbocca appears as pallid puddles of melted mozarella, served ungarnished on a plain white plate. Every bite, however, explodes like a culinary paint ball, as veal, anchovies, prosciutto and cheese vie for attention. By way of visual contrast, the platter of seafood over linguini is an impressive mound of squid and shellfish, featuring plump mussels and two shrimp as large as any that have ever posed atop an entree. Cannoli, spumoni and other sweets are as one would expect at a good southern Italian restaurant. Light and moist tiramisu is the only dessert made on the premises, however, and it shouldn't be missed.   --Cary Pollak

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Donna's Favorite Holiday Punch

It can be difficult to keep a hot punch at the right temperature for drinking.  Either it is too hot, or it cools off very quickly in your cup, and then is not so appealing.  This one is served at room temperature.

one bottle of zinfandel (or other red wine ...cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, merlot)
one bottle of ruby port
one cup of Grand Marnier (or other orange liquor)

Mix in punch bowl or large pitcher.  Makes approx. 20 servings  Be careful ...it's so delicious but deceptively potent!

 


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