”A psychologist once said that we know little about the conscience - except that it is soluble in alcohol."
~~ Thomas Blackburn
“Once, during Prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water.”
~~ W.C. Fields
There's a Riesling for Everything
by Donna Christenson
Everything happens for a Riesling! That's the philosophy of Annette and Christian Schiller . . . and their annual Riesling party is an excellent example of something delightful happening for the enjoyment of Riesling wine. The German-born couple might argue that the best Rieslings come from Germany, but these days you also may find delicious ones grown in a surprising range of locations, including nearby in Washington, D.C.'s neighboring state, Virginia.
Wine made from Riesling grapes tends to have fruity flavors (think of apple, peach and pear) and sometimes floral notes or minerality (depending on the soil in which it was grown). It has a well-balanced acidity and can be crisp and complex. Though many people may think of Riesling as a sweet white wine, it is as likely to be semi-dry or dry. To tell which it might be, check the alcohol level listed on the bottle. If it is above 12.5% it should be dry and delicious; alcohol between 11 and 12.5 % is semi-dry and you will taste some sweetness; lower than that will be sweeter, especially when it is as low as 8 or 9% and could be a lovely dessert wine. Have you tried a Riesling wine lately?
DCdigest's Donna Christenson and Jake McGuire, along with Kristina Emersic, enjoyed comparing Rieslings from various countries.
These are a few of our favorite newly-discovered Rieslings, though there were so many it was impossible to try them all.
We were treated to a rare opportunity to try a range of vintage Rieslings from as far back as 1976. Klaus Teuter brought six older wines from his personal collection, including two Auslese wines from 1976 and a Beerenauslese from 1989.
Guests mingle on the upper deck of the Schillers' gracious home, one of several areas indoors and out, perfect for enjoying the wonderful wines brought by various guests and traditional German food offered by our hosts .
From Policy Wonk To Gourmet Chef
Greetings from Le Cordon Bleu - Ottawa by Mark Lewonowski
My appreciation of creating fine flavors and rich textures from fresh, natural ingredients began at my parents’ table. I have had a rewarding and satisfying career as a military officer and more recently as a civilian policy analyst. I am now setting all that aside to focus on my passion for fine food and wine. I hope to share some of that with you in the months and years to come.
If you have ever wondered what it would be like to retire from the Washington DC policy-analysis world (or whatever professional career you pursued) and make the change to something as radically different as classic French culinary school, let me share a perspective from my own recent experience at Le Cordon Bleu – Ottawa.
Founded in Paris in 1895, Le Cordon Bleu is considered today the largest network of culinary and hospitality schools in the world with more than 35 institutes in 20 countries and 20,000 students are trained every year. Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa Culinary Arts Institute is North America’s only Cordon Bleu campus. Students from all over the world attend the Ottawa, Canada, campus to share a common bond in their passion for pastry and cuisine. I’m in the cuisine program, and in my class there are students from Korea, Indonesia, Brazil, Bolivia, the Netherlands, and the United States. The pastry class running parallel to ours includes more nationalities, including Chinese and Canadian. In Ottawa, all classes are taught in English with a fair amount of culinary French mixed in, but the student lounge sounds like a United Nations assembly.
Ottawa was the first Cordon Bleu campus opened outside Europe and remains the smallest. All the instructor chefs are from France and have extensive professional experience. Individual attention for students is a key ingredient of the program here.
The focus of the program is on preparing students for successful careers in the restaurant industry. Graduates are active in a number of cuisine and food-related industries, but they all derive from understanding of what it means to prepare and serve fine food to discerning customers.
Cooking beautiful food is high art. The artistry of cooking is an exercise in creative expression no less than painting or music. A grasp of technique makes all recipes accessible and great things possible. By no means am I the best example of what le Cordon Bleu can do to turn a neophyte home cook into a resto-ready professional, but my progress is illustrative.
For example, we recently started the class day with Chef demonstrating how to prepare Jambonnette de Pintade, poêlée de Champignons, et Gratin Dauphinois (Stuffed Guinea Fowl Leg, mixed mushrooms, and Dauphinoise Potato Gratin). With his 30 years of professional experience, of course he made it look easy. Then we went into the kitchen and tried to replicate what we had seen. We worked to get it all done in 2 ½ hours, combining techniques of making the stuffing (guinea fowl thigh meat, tarragon, bread, shallot, cream, cognac, and of course butter), braising using caul fat to contain and shape the stuffed guinea fowl leg, sautéing mushrooms in butter and finishing them with fresh parsley, preparing green beans à l’anglaise, and preparing and baking gratin potatoes. Then of course we plated and presented the meal as if to customers at a fine restaurant. I found it all very challenging—but I didn’t sign up to learn how to do easy things! I took this photograph to illustrate one interpretation of what the final product might look like and as an example of what I now have the skill and confidence to do that I could not have imagined just a few months ago.
Visiting Paris soon?
The Hôtel Lutetia: A Parisian Landmark Has Returned in its Full Splendor
by Jake McGuire
The Hôtel Lutetia, originally opened in 1910 by Paris’ most famous department store “Le Bon Marché” (located just across the street) for the store’s well-heeled clients, is noted historically and architecturally as it transcended the Art Nouveau style of the time to the newly emerging Art Deco.
The now open hotel––actually re-opened, after a four year renovation–– The Lutetia is a luxury hotel anchoring the vibrant west side of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood of Paris and is the only grand hotel on the city's Left Bank, or the south side of the Seine River. In fact, it is just a few short blocks from the world famous Musee d’Orsay (as visitors to Paris know the city is immensely walkable.) The nearest metro is Sèvres – Babylone, lines 10 and 12, just a few meters away.
Offering full French hospitality, Lutetia features an inviting mix of restaurants, bars, and lounges including the noted Lutetia Brasserie supervised by chef Gerald Passedat (three Michelin stars.)
The Lutetia, arguably Paris’ hottest new hotel, is a “must-visit” for visitors to Paris, even just for a simple glass of Chateau Margaux at the high-ceilinged and colorful bar, where you are likely to run into the rich and famous from around the world. The hotel, of course, has a variety of high-end services like an indoor pool, luxury spa, and other amenities for weary world travelers.
The Hotel is located at 45 Boulevard Raspail, where the 6th arrondissement of Paris meets the 7th. (“Arrondissement” is the designation for Parisian neighborhoods, as you likely know). This Saint-Germain-des-Prés district has been a haven for artists, philosophers and writers for decades, including the likes of Ernest Hemingway.
For hotel details visit the Lutetia website: www.hotellutetia.com
ZooFari: Bite Night, a benefit for wildlife
Thursday, May 16 at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo
6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Gourmet Food, Fine Wine and Live Entertainment on the Menu
by Donna Christenson
Zoofari!!! It’s our favorite event of the year and it’s coming soon!!! ZooFari offers the opportunity to sample gourmet fare from more than 100 of the Washington DC area’s best restaurants, along with complimentary wine from local and international vineyards. In addition, three mega-bars located around the beautiful grounds of the Smithsonian's National Zoo will provide guests a selection of complimentary beer, soft drinks and water.
To say that you are "sampling" the food really is misleading. Many of the restaurants are serving portion sizes that are similar to "small plates" or tapas-sized servings, and there are over 100 restaurants ...so you'll need to try to pace yourself! For example, delectable sizzling crabcakes were offered by the wonderful West End neighborhood restaurant RIS at a VIP reception at a previous year’s ZooFari (photo above).
All you can manage to eat and drink is included in the ticket price, with proceeds benefiting a wide range of Zoo programs. In addition to an impressive array of food, wine and specialty cocktails, other ZooFari highlights throughout the evening include opportunities for guests to visit the Small Mammal House, the Great Ape House, and the Reptile Discovery Center, as well as to experience animal encounters along Olmsted Walk.
Fabulous food, great wine, wild animals, live musical performances …but wait – there’s more! The fun continues as guests also can bid on hundreds of exclusive items including vacation getaways and exclusive dining experiences at the ZooFari silent auction. For those who can’t wait until the evening of the event, there is also a ZooFari online auction. Among the fantastic auction items, one of the most unique in previous year's was a ticket package to "Hamilton" on Broadway! This year's silent auction is open to the public before and during the event and features conservation-themed prizes, including animal paintings, behind-the-scenes tours at the Zoo and even the opportunity to name a wild tapir.
In addition to providing a unique dining and entertainment experience, the event will celebrate conservation work around the globe. Smithsonian scientists will be on hand to share stories with guests about how they're saving endangered animals. Special stations will showcase five wildlife projects supported by Conservation Nation, an initiative of Friends of the National Zoo.
Additional experiences are offered to guests with VIP ticket packages. A private, exclusive Pre-party Reception from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Elephant Community Center will offer elephant viewing, as well as specialty cocktails and catering. The Premier Pavilion offers seating, festive decorations, a private bar, exclusive animal encounters, interactive and musical entertainment, as well as select food offerings. The VIP Lounge at the Zoo's Great Cats Circle offers a unique opportunity to view the cats at night with demonstrations and exclusive keeper talks. Specialty food and drinks as well as live entertainment and musical performances also will be offered.
Tickets for ZooFari and additional details, including a list of participating restaurants and wineries, are available through the National Zoo's website.
Photos by DCdigest 's Donna Christenson were taken at several previous years' Zoofari events.
THE EMBASSY CHEF CHALLENGE 2019 IS AN EVENT LIKE NO OTHER
By Donna Christenson
Photos from previous years' Embassy Chef Challenge by Donna Christenson
Washington, DC, like most other major American cities has no shortage of wonderful food-related and cultural events to entertain and educate residents and visitors. Only the nation’s capital, however, can host an affair like the Events DC Embassy Chef Challenge presented by TCMA. That presenter is the company that manages the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, where the event will be held on Tuesday, April 2, 2019.
This friendly competition features dishes from around the world, prepared by chefs who have been chosen by their countries to cook for the ambassadors of those countries to the United States and for events hosted by those dignitaries. These gifted culinary professionals rarely display their talents outside of their embassies and to have them gathered at one place cooking for guests who attend this special event is an experience not to be missed.
As they have for more than ten years at this unique celebration of international culinary arts, the chefs will compete for the People’s Choice Prize presented by Events DC (voted on by attendees at the event) and for the Judges’ Choice Prize presented by TCMA (chosen by a panel of distinguished cooking professionals). Past winners of these coveted awards have included Norway, Barbados, Morocco, Thailand and Hungary. Last year Chef Abigail Sincioco of the Philippines won both the People's Choice and Judges Choice Awards.
Among the approximately 20 participating countries will include the South American nations of Peru and Bolivia, the African countries of Morocco, Kenya, Libya and Ghana, European participation from Belgium, tropical islands represented by Saint Lucia and the British Virgin Islands, and from Eurasia there's The Republic of Georgia. In addition to culinary delights paired with innovative cocktails, the embassies of many of the participating countries will provide cultural entertainment such as music, dancing and fashion displays. Examples in the past have been the mariachi band Los Gallos Negros, Ghanaian jazz guitarist Dea Botri, Brazilian dance group Origem, and a live musical performance by City of the Sun. The embassy that presents the best native drink, whether wine, beer, cocktail or mocktail, will win the PepsiCo Best Beverage Award.
Come to the Embassy Chef Challenge and you, too, will have great things to say about this adventure in culinary and cultural diplomacy. Tickets, including options for VIP early entry at 5:30 p.m., can be purchased at the website, www.eventsdcembassychefchallenge.com .
Medoc Wine from Bordeaux
By Roger Lindberg with photos by Donna Christenson
Press the average American wine drinker to name a French wine region and there is little doubt Bordeaux would be first on their lips because it is the largest wine region in France. Its proximity to the Atlantic made exporting simple starting back in the 12th century. And half of the Bordeaux’s red wine production comes from the Medoc, a relatively small growing area some 50 miles long and two miles wide situated on the peninsula bordered by the Gironde estuary to the east and the Atlantic on the west. It is the very rise and fall of the estuary tides and the fog from the Atlantic combined with the gravelly soil (the result of a Dutch drainage project in the 16th century) that makes the grapes grown in the Medoc perfect for some of the best red wines in the world.
Wendy Narby, a British expat who fell in love with the wines of the Medoc, has been lecturing at the Bordeaux Wine School for 30 years. She recently gave a master class on wines of the Medoc at the Montgomery County Liquor Control Department in Gaithersburg, MD. Narby explained that half the Medoc vines are Cabernet Sauvignon, the primary grapes blended with Merlot, and to a lesser percentage Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot that make up each years vintage. The recent best vintages for the region are 2005, 09, 10, 15 and 16. But each year produces quality wines worthy of any dining table. Sadly, Château Lafite-Rothschild, was not on the tasting list but the Chateaux offered were a joy to sample.
- Chateau Cardus, Medoc, 2010, (fresh juicy fruit, lovely length, easy to drink,)
- Chateau Barreyres, Haut-Medoc
- Cru Bourgeois, 2011 (ripe fruit with spice and oaky,)
- Chateau Lalaudey, Moulis-en-Medoc, Cru Bourgeois, 2014 (fresh fruit - black berry, with tight oak,)
- Chateau Reverdi, Listrac-Medoc, Cru Bourgeois, 2014 (young with more oak but ready & excellent to drink now, even better in 3 or 4 years)
- Chateau Paveil de Luze, Margaux, Cru Bourgeois, 2013 (ruby red in color, floral, velvety, full-body, well-structured, ready to drink now,)
- ChateauTalbot, Grand Cru Classe, Saint-Julien, Grand Cru Classe en 1855, 2010 (dense, ripe and powerful,)
- Chateau d’Armailhac, Grand Cru Classe, Pauillac, Grand Cru Classe en 1855, 2014 (dark sweet ripe fruit, cedar and minerality, an elegant structure, long finish,) and finally
- Chateau Morin, Saint-Estephe, 2011 (rich, dark fruit with enough tannins to accompany a steak, grilled duck or spicy food.)
All grapes used in each chateau’s production must be grown on land owned by the chateau. However, this is not a field blending of the grapes but rather the blending is carefully supervised in the barrel, which takes more skill but insures a finer end product. So, next time you want a good Bordeaux for a meal you may want to ask your wine merchants if they could recommend a good Medoc. They’ll be impressed and your guests will be delighted. Most of these wonderful wines are available locally in Maryland, Washington DC or Virginia.
photo of Wendy Narby by Donna Christenson
Chianti Classico from Italy
These are some of the delicious Chianti Classico wines we tasted recently
...details on why you'll want to try them and where you can get them coming soon!
Announcing the first Ghvino Forum:to Advance the Understanding of the Origin and Evolution of Wine Culture
Receptions, Tastings, and Seminars featuring wine from the Republic of Georgia
Washington, DC / Nov. 11-13, 2018 / open to the public upon registration
Who were the world's first winemakers? It might surprise you to learn that scientific evidence says it happened in the area that is now the Republic of Georgia.
From Sunday, November 11th to Tuesday, November 13th, the first Ghvino Forum—a series of events created to further advance the understanding of the 8,000-year-old origin of wine – will be hosted in Washington, DC. The Forum will also examine wine’s influence on society and geopolitics in the Republic of Georgia, the Caucasus, and beyond. “Ghvino” is the Georgian word for “wine,” and is widely thought to be the origin of the term.
Organized by the America Georgia Business Council, events include a Saperavi “Festival” at the Embassy of Georgia, a walk-around Georgian wine tasting at Supra (one of the foremost Georgian restaurants in the United States), and a one-day conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
The forum is in response to the growing interest of American consumers in both the beginning of wine culture and how the ancient tradition of using Georgian “qvevri”— giant, hand-made clay vessels buried in the earth to make wine—were used through the ages and continue to flourish today, connecting the past with the present.
In 2013, qvevri winemaking was added to the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In July 2017, Georgia was the topic for the inaugural opening exhibit in Bordeaux’s stunning wine museum, the Cité du Vin. In November 2017, the Gadachrili Gora Regional Archaeological Project Expedition (GRAPE) —a joint undertaking between the University of Toronto and the Georgian National Museum—announced evidence dating Georgian winemaking to the Neolithic period, establishing scientific proof for more than 8,000 vintages in the country. In September 2018 alone,
qvevri winemaking was written about in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Food & Wine Magazine, and Condé Nast Traveler, among many other outlets.
As a primary driver of Georgia’s burgeoning tourism industry (representing 18% of Georgia’s GDP in 2017), wine has been crucial to the internal financial, and legal infrastructure. Panels will explore how wine production evolved in Georgia and the Caucasus and transformed Georgia’s economy; the geopolitical consequences of a new wave of trade liberalization and foreign investment for the Caucasus; and the dynamics of local and global economies of wine, their politics and prospects. Attendees may attend one panel, two, or all three.development of Georgia’s trading,
This event series is organized by the America Georgia Business Council (AGBG), with support from the National Wine Agency of the Georgian Department of Agriculture, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Embassy of Georgia to the United States of America.
Georgia is home to more than 520 indigenous grape varieties, Georgia is being transformed from an ancient cottage industry into an artisanal powerhouse, with winemakers producing some of the world’s most unique and distinctive fine wines using both qvevri and European winemaking methods. www.winesgeorgia.com
EVENT DETAILS at Ghvino Forum
editor/photographer Donna Christenson
Guilford Station Arts Club
Music, Antiques and Lebanese Cuisine Lure Us Out Beyond the Beltway!
editor & photo credit - Donna Christenson
Some of my finest dining experiences have been in the Washington, DC area …not just downtown but in places like Bethesda, Alexandria or Potomac. I also love traveling and the opportunity to try more exotic local cuisines …trips to France, Italy, and Brazil top my list of "great food" experiences. For unusual food, it seems my mind drifts to places that require a plane trip …good things often begin at Dulles Airport.
Dulles is in Loudoun County, the home of Leesburg and Purcellville …interesting places perhaps, but a bit far away. For many of us city-dwellers, the obstacle is traffic-congested roads. The idea of venturing way, way out beyond the Beltway fills many with "Traffic Anxiety Syndrome".
But it turns out you can find a truly authentic Lebanese meal in a quaint, rustic setting in less driving time than it takes to find a parking place in Georgetown …in Sterling, VA, near the afore-mentioned Dulles Airport. Combine excellent food with classical music performed live in an intimate setting, all at a bargain price of only $15, and you have a great reason to explore or re-discover the suburbs.
I’ve had the food fortune to attend musical “salons” at Jackie Anderson's home in Mclean for many years, and the tradition certainly pre-dates me. I always admire the precision, comfort and grace Jackie gives these events, seemingly effortlessly. Anybody who visits Jackie's house is immediately impressed by her collection of beautiful and practical antiques, lovingly curated over decades.
When she recently retired from her National Symphony Orchestra-violinist career, Jackie knew she wanted to do something special to stay involved in the wonderful world of music she loved, and to blend that with her passion for antiques.
Jackie (in photo at left with her husband, Bill Ewing) is now focusing her interest and experience into an “Arts Club” – a place to meet other artists, discuss ideas, collaborate, practice, teach and learn – all with Turkish coffee (and eventually wine, too, if things work out.) The Guilford Station Arts Club provides a wonderful performance space for musicians and offers audience members a rare opportunity to hear marvelous music in a charming, intimate setting. Imagine delightful musical evenings reminiscent of a bygone era, before live music performed in private homes was replaced by electronic reproductions.
This all takes place in an elegant 1860’s-era farmhouse that truly transports you to a new and wonderful Early American world – complete with Jackie’s golden touch. The Guilford Station Arts Club is just North of Dulles, in old Sterling (called Guilford when the railroad first came through.) Jackie has always liked the idea of opening an antiques shop but a place filled with relics could potentially be stodgy. That fate has been precluded with the emphasis on music and the arts, and by, quite literally, spicing things up …with aromatic Lebanese cuisine.
Mona’s Café is a delightful feature of the Guilford Station Arts Club. Mona Abul-Hosn has been cooking for Jackie for well over a decade and wanted to move beyond her home-based catering business. They already knew they had the right chemistry …when the two of them get together, the laughter is contagious. Mona is as productive as she is authentic, laughing engagingly as she bustles in the kitchen, whipping up a batch of baba ghanoush, kibbeh and stuffed grape leaves quicker than most of us can slice a melon. Mona (center) shows off a platter of falafel, Samaha (left) holds spinach pies, and Mariella has meat pies.
At a woodwind quintet salon performance there a few weeks ago, I sampled a wide array of Mona's delicacies – lamb with rice, falafel, hummus. The package deal including the musical performance was incredible at $15, and Mona's everyday, prices are better than reasonable, too.
So if you have an EasyPass (worth getting to avoid long lines in the cash toll lanes …or you might prefer just to take Route 7) it’s a terrific excuse to take a drive to what was, until recently, considered “out in the country”. I highly recommend planning a trip to Mona's Lebanese Café and the Guilford Station Arts Club. You can check them out at guilfordstationarts.org/ and monaslebanesecafe.com, (both ready for you to “like” on Facebook.)
The Guilford Station Arts Club performances are followed by a light buffet of Mona's delectable Lebanese cuisine. Guests are encouraged to bring a bottle of wine or their favorite beverage. Reservations are required! Details at http://guilfordstationarts.org/ See you there ...and tell your friends!
Nage Bistro Debuts A New Offering “Big Deal Wines at A Big Deal Steal
editor & photo credit - Donna Christenson
Nage Bistro, the hidden gem in Washington, D.C.'s Scott Circle just announced an exciting new summer wine program highlighting “big deal wines at a big deal steal.” Guests will enjoy a rare opportunity to drink hard-to-find, traditionally expensive wines at an unbeatable price. The wines are offered by the bottle only, subject to availability, and will be changing throughout the summer to invite repeated visits for truly delicious exploration. These big deal wines will be available all summer long, through Labor Day Monday, September 7th, during brunch, lunch, and dinner service.
For starters, one can try unique options like 2012 Chateau de Sancere Loire, France; 2010 Domaine JA Ferret Pouilly-Fuisse Tete de cru Les Perrieres Maconnais, France; 2006 Terlato &
Chapoutier Shiraz Pyrenees, Australia; 2008 Domaine Berthet – Reyne Chateauneuf du Pape Rhone, France; 2009 Sequoia Grove Cambium Blend Napa Valley, California; 2012 Barboursville Cabernet Franc Reserve Barboursville, Virginia; 2008 Rodney Strong Reserve Cabernet Alexander Valley, California; 2012 Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet/Shiraz Southern Australia, and 2009 Far Niente Cabernet Oakville, California. These hard to find wines are priced from $40 to $99 per bottle at Nage, and they retail from $46 to $129 at wine shops and $63 to $193 in restaurants.
“These wines are at a really good price point and we are very proud to be able to offer them this summer,” explains General Manager John Kilkenny who also spearheads Nage Bistro’s beverage
program. “Many of these wines are priced below retail, and offer a significant savings compared to anywhere else in town. We hope our neighbors will come enjoy them.”
For the perfect pairing, guests can enjoy summer dishes prepared by Nage's Executive Chef Dwayne Motley such as Charbroiled Oysters with oregano, black pepper, and parmesan; Roasted Beet Salad with hazelnuts, frisee, goat cheese, orange, fennel, and brown butter vinaigrette; Ramp Bucatini with English peas, sugar snaps, green garlic, and Parmigiano Reggiano; Chicken Roulade with cippolini onion, green garlic, English peas, and chicken jus, as well as Chesapeake Crab cakes with ramps, fava beans, morel mushrooms, and spring pea puree. Menu items are priced from $6 to $29.
Nage Bistro is located at 1600 Rhode Island Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20036. The restaurant is open for breakfast, Monday through Sunday, from 7 AM to 10:30 AM. Lunch is served Monday through Friday, from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM, and dinner is available Monday through Thursday, from 5 PM to 10 PM, Friday and Saturday, from 5 PM to 10:30 PM and Sunday, from 5 PM to 9 PM. Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday, from 11 AM to 2:30 PM. For reservations please call (202) 448-8005 or visit www.nagedc.com.
The Blue Duck Tavern Greets Warm Weather in Style
By Cary Pollak
The Blue Duck Tavern in Washington, DC’s Park Hyatt Hotel, is a highly acclaimed restaurant. Being named the “Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year” by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington in 2013 and appearing on Washingtonian Magazine’s 100 Very Best Restaurants list for the last eight years in a row are just two of the restaurant’s many accolades.
This charming restaurant offers a great dining experience all year round, but the advent of spring is a particularly special occurrence there. At that time of year the restaurant’s fancy turns to thoughts of what new menu items should accompany the reopening of their outdoor terrace section. A recent celebration of that opening featured refreshing new cocktails, imaginative appetizers, salad and entrée selections, artisanal American cheeses and an array of desserts that put everyone in the mood for warm weather dining.
The open kitchen at Blue Duck Tavern.
Slow Roasted Porchetta.
Prior to coming to the Park Hyatt Washington, Executive Chef Ryan LaRoche held that same position at the hotel’s Chicago location. One can surmise that the spring season, and the possibilities it holds for exciting menu adjustments, was at least as eagerly awaited there as it is here, in our more moderate climate. With spring on his mind, Chef LaRoche led his staff in doing a fine job of meeting his stated goal of “reconstructing a menu to better reflect what nature has provided us.” One example of this burst of creativity is the Spring Pea Salad, an intriguing combination of fresh peas, lavender honey, preserved lemon and spiced peanuts.
Spring green was everywhere!
‘Cowboy’ Chef-Owner Luigi Diotaiuti of Al Tiramisu
Upholds Old Italian Tradition of Transumanza,
Driving Cows to Cooler, Higher, Greener Pastures
By Rozanne Weissman
Not only has Chef-Owner Luigi Diotaiuti burnished the Al Tiramisu brand as the most authentic Italian restaurant in Washington DC, but he also traveled to Italy to help his brother Antonio uphold the ancient Italian tradition of Transumanza, which was a way of life in Italy for some 3000 years that's in danger of dying.
Transumanza means "crossing the land." It's the nearly disappearing, twice yearly migration of cows and sheep from winter-appropriate lowlands to cooler, high-altitude, lush pastures and back again. It has the full support of the Italian government. Each cow has ID "papers" to make this journey—number, date of birth, and health information including vaccines.
It’s not exactly like the cattle drive in the popular American film “City Slickers,” starring Billy Crystal and Jack Palance. There are no Italian cowboys on horseback to herd the cattle—only men on foot both herding and shepherding hundreds of cows up and down hills, through pastures, gorges, valleys, refuges, glens of trees, rural villages and towns, and even down paved two-lane roads.
Even though he is fit and has participated in dozens of marathons on multiple continents, "Cowboy" Chef Luigi had his work cut out for him as he walked 120 kilometers, or 74 miles, with a crooked stick and helped herd 170 cattle, including little calves, for four long days starting from Tursi in the province of Matera, in the southern Italian region of Basilicata, and ultimately through his birthplace on a farm near Lagonegro until he finally left the cattle to graze in summer pasturelands in Monte Sirino, a ski resort in winter.
Walking to the ancient rhythm of cowbells and a different time, Chef Luigi had no reception much of the way for his beloved iPhone, which documented the journey on Al Tiramisu's Facebook page through photos and La Transumanza 2012 photo album.
The trip is not surprising because Chef Luigi believes in upholding traditions and helping family and country—both Italy and the USA. Last year, he marked the joint 150th anniversary of Italy and the 15th anniversary of Al Tiramisu with cooking classes featuring not only the food and paired wines of the 20 regions of Italy but also the history, culture, and people.
And how do you top that this year other than herding cows? Inspired by handsome actor and director George Clooney who has dined at the restaurant some 20 times—three times with his parents—Chef Luigi debuted a four-course "Superstar Dinner" to mark the restaurant's 16th year in business. It seems appropriately named because Superstar Clooney—with his vacation home, Villa Oleandra in Laglio, on the shores of Lake Como in northern Italy—calls Italy his second home.
Proclaims Chef Luigi, "Now you, too, can dine like a Superstar with an Italian feast at Al Tiramisu."
Al Tiramisu, 2014 P St. NW, Washington, DC 20036. Reservations: 202-467-4466. Valet parking seven nights a week 6-10 PM.