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Metropolitan Cooking & Entertainment Show

By Richard Sommerfeld with Donna Christenson

The 2013 MetroCooking DC is currently underway at the Walter Washington Convention Center. Not only does it showcase 300 vendors, mostly from the DC metro area, but this year the new Holiday Bazaar is co-located with the show. On Sunday the new Grand Tasting Pavilion will feature dozens of local restaurants and chefs sharing samples of their signature dishes.

There are numerous celebrity cooking demonstrations to be enjoyed. The American National CattleWomens Association (ANCW) not only sponsors some of the demonstrations, but has also provided the beef for many tasty samplings. The ANCW is a professional networking group that keeps up to date on the issues related to the beef industry, which includes consumer education, promotion ideas and legislative items of interest.

Some of our favorite new discoveries among the many terrific vendors, all but two of which are from our local area, include:

Capital City Mumbo Sauce ( is a line of sauces that are sweet, sticky, tangy and plain old good. The red tomato based sauce is sweet and tangy, with a bit of a kick. Often used as a condiment on fried chicken wings and French fries, mumbo sauce is, for the most part, only found at local Washington, DC Chinese carryout restaurants. You can find Mumbo Sauce at the Union Market, Ben’s Next Door Gift Shop, the Eastern Market, Sav-a-Lot, and Murry’s.

Hoffman’s Meats ( of Hagerstown, MD has been providing all natural meats, including sausages, Fordham Bier Brats, and various baked goods since 1923. Today, Hoffman’s is headed by the Trippett family who purchased the business in 2011 Hoffman’s serves retailers throughout Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Laconiko ( offers a line of extra virgin and infused olive oils that have become increasingly popular here in the DC area. With a limited quantity of olive trees (only 5,000), its private olive estate is located off the sandy beaches of the Southern Peloponnese, outside of Sparta, Greece, and surrounded by orange trees. This unique location by the coast and in the midst of orange trees gives olive oil its unique delicate flavor. We have written about Laconiko before (scroll down to find it) and now you can find Laconiko’s products in Wagshal’s, Cork & Fork and Sapore in the District, Arrow Wines and Clifton Wine Shop & Tasting Room in Virginia (among others) and 14 retail outlets in Maryland.

Parfections ( sells handmade gourmet chocolates that are scrumptiously different because they only produce chocolates in small batches, thereby allowing them to provide chocolates with unusual flavors and innovative ingredient combinations. Based in Cockeysville, MD, Parfections’ product line includes over 30 unique truffle flavors, a variety of chocolate barks, dried fruits dipped in chocolate, and fresh strawberries decorated in your choice of chocolate. Believe us, you could easily get stalled at this booth.

Salt Rox ( sells pink Himalayan salt block that are perfect for cooking small meals of meat, poultry or fish, cooling fresh sushi, or presenting mouthwatering desserts either hot or cold. Fresh fruit, and dessert items such as chocolate are transformed by the salt blocks natural seasoning. You can put it on your grill or use it in your oven. You cook right on the salt block. We sampled grilled mushrooms and pork chops…Yum…Yum!

Todd’s Dirt ( which is a range of seasonings for meats, vegetables and soups. The spices are all natural and there is no MSG or gluten in any of the four varieties. In early 2014 the company will begin offering a range a marinades. Our favorite spice from this Severna Park based company is Crabby Dirt which we have used as a seafood seasoning and as a pork rub for grilling. You can buy a 3.25 oz. jar at the show for $5. You can also find Todd’s Dirt at local grocery stores.

Velatis ( has been satisfying Washington’s sweet tooth since 1866. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Velatis produces over twenty varieties of chewy and sugary styles of caramel candies made from Old European recipes. Vanilla and chocolate caramels are made with and without nuts and marshmallow centers. Seasonal varieties include raspberry, black cherry brandy, cream de menthe, pumpkin spice, key lime and eggnog. In addition to their main store in Silver Spring, you can also buy Velatis chocolates and caramels at Piazza Italian Market in Easton, MD and at The Chocolate Seller in Middleburg, VA.

Artisan smoked salmon from Neopol Savory Smokery ( at Union Market. You should taste the smoked trout…OMG

Hugh Acheson is the author of the James Beard Foundation Award Winning Cookbook A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen and chef/partner of the Athens, Georgia, restaurants Five and Ten and The National, and the Atlanta restaurant Empire State South. He is a James Beard award winner for Best Chef Southeast and was named a Best Chef by Food & Wine Magazine. Hugh competed in Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, Season 3 and currently stars as a judge on Top Chef.

Jason Roberts is an internationally known chef and cast member of the hit daytime talk show “The Chew” on ABC.

Roberts brings his unique flair and cooking style to the show for in studio segments and travels the country in search of unique and interesting food.

These and many more celebrity chefs will lead a variety of workshops over the weekend including Rocky Fino, author of Will Cook for Sex: A Guys Guide to Cooking; Kim O’Donnel, author of The Meat Lovers Meatless Celebrations; Marcia Friedman, author of Meatballs and Matzah Balls: Recipes and Reflections from a Jewish and Italian Life; and Monica Bhide, author of Modern Spice: Inspired Indian recipes for the contemporary Kitchen.



Foodie weekend to include TV stars, new tasting Pavilion, 100s of specialty food vendors

Washington, DC – Metro Cooking DC returns for its eighth year to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center November 2 & 3, 2013. This year’s extravaganza brings television chefs, hundreds of specialty food vendors selling their products, cooking demonstrations, cookbook authors and workshops.

This year’s show will have two new features: the Grand Tasting Pavilion with dozens of local restaurants and chefs sharing samples of their signature fare and the Holiday Bazaar, an entire section of the event dedicated to specialty gifts.

Those who purchase a one-day pass have the opportunity to see a rotating roster of television chefs including The Chew’s Jason Roberts; actress Debi Mazur (of Entourage) and her husband Gabriele Corcos from The Cooking Channel’s Extra Virgin; the Food Network’s Extreme Chef Terry French, all pictured below. Others include cookbook author and James Beard 2012 Best Chef Southeast honoree, Atlanta’s Chef Hugh Acheson; and Grill Sergeant Brad Turner.

More personalities are conducting a variety of workshops over the weekend including Rocky Fino, author of Will Cook for Sex: A Guys Guide to Cooking; Kim O’Donnel, author of The Meat Lovers Meatless Celebrations; Marcia Friedman, author of Meatballs and Matzah Balls: Recipes and Reflections from a Jewish and Italian Life; and Monica Bhide, author of Modern Spice: Inspired Indian recipes for the contemporary Kitchen.

Amidst the live discussions and demonstrations with chefs and the rest of the impressive list of participants will be a labyrinth of vendor booths in the Marketplace featuring samples and wares from more than 200 exhibitors. Local and international specialty foods and food-related products will be for sale throughout the weekend.

Debuting this year will be the Grand Tasting Pavilion where attendees can sample favorites from a wide variety of DC area restaurants, chefs, caterers, food trucks and specialty manufacturers. Among them, Del Campo, 1789, Cedar, Bourbon Steak, Founding Farmers, The Hamilton, Thally, Fujimar and Hank’s Oyster Bar. The Pavilion will be open on Sunday, November 3, from 1-4 pm and the $63 ticket also includes complimentary Marketplace general admission.

General Admission tickets are $24.50 plus ticketing service charges, children ages 4-12 are $12.50 and children ages 4 and younger are free. General Admission tickets allow entrance to demonstrations, entertaining presentations and vendor booths on the exhibit hall floor. For a full listing of events and tickets, visit www.metrocookingdccom

Metro Cooking DC – Walter E. Washington Convention Center

Saturday November 2: 10 am – 6 pm Sunday November 3: 10 am – 5 pm

General admission, $24.50 (+ processing fee); children 4-12, $12.50

Children 4 and under free

For information 703.543.1628


National Press Club's Fourth Estate Restaurant puts on a very special

cookbook dinner with Chef Todd Gray of Equinox Restaurant

By Cary Pollak

On September 25th, Equinox Restaurant co-owners Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray teamed up with National Press Club Executive Chef Susan Delbert to host a much anticipated dinner featuring dishes from the Grays’ latest cookbook, The New Jewish Table. The event had been sold out for over a month, and judging by the comments and frequent applause of the guests filling the NPC’s Fourth Estate Restaurant, it was a huge success. After the dinner, Ellen Kassoff Gray exclaimed that it was “one of the best dinners we have ever done - and we have done close to 1000.”

Equinox Restaurant co-owners, Executive Chef Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray

The evening began with a steady stream of hors d’oeurves being marched out from the kitchen. Yukon Gold and sweet potato latkes (pancakes), Gruyere cheese puffs, falafel, eggplant caviar and smoked trout on crostini were paired with, a 2008 cabernet sauvignon – shiraz – merlot Meishar 41 from the Mediterranean coast of Israel. This was the first of six wines provided by suppliers Mayer Jacobovitz and Agnes Goldberger of Israeli Wines Direct, and chosen to pair well with each course of the dinner.

Fourth Estate Restaurant Manager Brent Gwathney greets arriving guests

with one of six Israeli wines offered during the evening

NPC member Cary Pollak, the organizer of the event, rose after the hors d’oeurves had been passed to introduce celebrity chef Todd Gray, whose many accolades include being a five time James Beard Award nominee, and being named Chef of the Year in 2011 by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW). Chef Gray regaled the audience with stories about the creation of The New Jewish Table cookbook, his romance and partnership with his wife, Ellen, and some of his projects, such as being the Culinary Director of Salamander Hotels and Resorts including their new resort in Middleburg, Virginia. NPC Executive Chef Susan Delbert also addressed the crowd periodically during the evening, but much of her time was spent in the kitchen, doing the hard work that was necessary to make sure that the event lived up to its high expectations.

Executive chef Susan Delbert gives Fourth Estate Restaurant Staff last minute instructions

The first plated course was pumpkin risotto with sautéed wild mushrooms, an homage to the fact that the fall season is now upon us, and to the seasonal approach to cooking that is the hallmark of the Grays’ celebrated Equinox Restaurant and of the cookbook that inspired the feast of the evening. This was followed by a salad of roasted heirloom beets, capers and almonds. Next up was barbecued wild salmon with sweet corn, followed by pistachio-crusted loin of lamb with caramelized cauliflower and wilted spinach. Apple strudel and vanilla ice cream ended the meal with appropriate old country feel and flavor.

Roasted heirloom beet salads ready to be served; Pistachio-crusted loin of lamb

Between courses the Israeli Wines Direct team introduced the wine that had been chosen for the upcoming dish, with commentary and visual presentations on two screens provided by the Press Club. Ellen Kassoff Gray, wife of Todd and previous winner of the RAMW award for Restaurant Manager of the Year, concluded the evening by addressing the crowd to thank them for coming and to praise the success of the event.

Photo credits: Cary Pollak; Donna Christenson,


"ROAD TRIP THROUGH GREECE” WINE DINNER on Monday, September 30, 2013

José Andrés and his team at the award-winning restaurant Zaytinya will host a “Zaytinya Road Trips 2013” dinner led by ThinkFoodGroup’s Wine Director Lucas Payá and Zaytinya’s Beverage Manager Daniella Senior.

The evening will feature highlights of their most remarkable wine experiences from their recent travels through Greece, paired with a menu specially designed by Zaytinya Head Chef Michael Costa.

$65 per person (excluding tax and gratuity)

Zaytinya is located at 701 9th Street, NW, 20001. For additional information, or to book a reservation, please call (202) 638-0800 or visit

The enticing menu is listed below, and scroll down for photos and more menu information about Zaytinya and their annual Grape Festival now through October 5th.



cured in Agouirido, borage flowers,

compressed cucumber


Grape leaves stuffed with rice, pine nuts, cauliflower,

served with Greek yogurt, sustainable caviar


sea urchin, olive oil, lemon, crispy bread

paired with

Domaine Tselepos Amalia Brut, Mantinia,

Greece NV



savory feta cheese pie, house-made phyllo,

heirloom lettuces, herbs

paired with

Roditis/Malagousia, Kir Yanni Petra,

Naoussa, Greece ’12



traditional rabbit stew with red wine and tomato


traditional spread of yellow split peas, olive oil and lemon


braised in red wine, peppercorns, bay leaves

paired with

Mavrotragano, Domaine Sigalas,

Santorini, Greece ’07



roasted on a bed of potatoes, lemon, greens

paired with

Xinomavro, Alpha Estate Old Vines,

Amyndeon, Greece ’06



traditional custard wrapped in phyllo, citrus sorbet

paired with

Malagousia, Gerovassiliou Late Harvest,

Thessaloniki, Greece ’05


Zaytinya Hosts its Third Annual Grape Festival in September

photographer & editor - Donna Christenson

Washington, D.C. (September 12, 2013) – It’s that time of year to celebrate the harvest season of the most iconic fruit, the grape. José Andrés and his team at award-winning mezze restaurant Zaytinya, led by Head Chef Michael Costa pictured below, commemorate this event with a two-week festival, which runs from September 22rd – October 5th. This is the third consecutive year that Zaytinya celebrates grapes, the most cherished of all fruits, through wine tasting events, dinners, a grape-inspired menu and a handcrafted specialty grape cocktail.

To kick off the festivities, on September 22rd, guests are invited to celebrate with an exceptional wine dinner crafted by Head Chef Michael Costa highlighting wines from the famed producer Ktima Pavlidis from the Drama region of northern Greece. This dinner starts at 7:15 PM and is priced at $75 per person (excluding tax and gratuity). On Monday, September 30th, the “Zaytinya Road Trips 2013” dinner will be led by ThinkFoodGroup’s Wine Director Lucas Payá and Zaytinya’s Beverage Manager Daniella Senior, who will feature highlights of their most remarkable wine experiences from their recent travels through Greece. This fun and casual family style dinner will start at 7:15PM and is priced at $65 per person (excluding tax and gratuity).

The Grape Festival provides a great opportunity to taste and learn about the diversity and complexity of talented Mediterranean winemakers through a series of complimentary wine tastings on Wednesday, September 25th (Lebanon) and Thursday the 26th (Turkey) and the following week on Wednesday, October 2nd (Greek) and Thursday the 3rd (distilled spirits from grapes) from 5:00 – 7:00PM.

Additionally delightful, a limited Agiorgitiko offering in magnum size, Skouras Megas Oenos, Peloponnese, Greece 2003, will be available by the glass for guests to experience throughout the festival. Cocktail enthusiasts can look forward to the distinct libation, There’s More Than One Way to Skinos a Grape, created by ThinkFoodGroup’s Cocktail Innovator Juan Coronado. This is a delicious combination of Skinos, Verjus, Dolin Blanc, Fee Bros old-fashioned bitter, a lemon twist and garnished with frozen peeled grape. It is priced at $11.

To finalize the festivities, Zaytinya will host a Greek Harvest Patio Party on Saturday, October 5th from 12PM – 4PM. Priced at $10 per person, guests are invited to stomp on grapes, kick up their heels and dance to live music with a complimentary glass of wine or grape juice, and delectable snacks.

Zaytinya will feature the following special menu items during the two-week festival:

Grape Festival Specials


Border Spring Farm lamb shoulder braised in honey and grape vinegar

with almonds, dried plums and apricots $12

Prawns Arak

Head-on shrimp sautéed with Arak, roasted grapes, red Fresno chiles and

aromatic herbs $14

Lebanese-Style Preserved Labne

Served with raisin grape molasses spoonsweet $8

Muscat Grape Granita

Orange flower scented yogurt espuma, candied orange, lemon verbena

Mezze Style $4, Full Portion $8

Part of José Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup, Zaytinya serves an extensive array of various mezze “little dishes” reflecting the rich regional diversity of classical and contemporary Greek, Turkish and Lebanese cuisine. Open seven days a week. Zaytinya is located at 701 9th St., NW, Washington, DC, in the heart of the Penn Quarter. For additional information call 202.638.0800 or visit


Médoc Wines in the Bordeaux region of France Featured in Advanced Seminar and Wine Tasting

by Donna Christenson

At an advanced seminar and wine tasting at The Capitol Wine School in Washington, D.C. September 4th, Wendy Narby taught wine professionals about the distinguishing characteristics of wines of the Médoc in the Bordeaux region of France. British born Narby, who has spent the last 25 years in the French Food and Wine Industry, is a teacher at the Ecole du Vin and has been a wine and food consultant in Paris and Bordeaux. Married to a local Château owner and negociant, Narby’s first-hand experience combined with her passion for the region made her presentation both informative and captivating.

The Bordeaux region is the most important wine producing region in France and in the world. Bordeaux has about 7,000 chateaux, with abut 1500 of those in Médoc. Contrary to popular perception, cabernet sauvignon is not the dominant grape in the area, but is actually grown about equally with merlot, along with a small percentage of petit verdot and cabernet franc.


Charity in Chocolate fundraising event returns to

The Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Friday September 6th

By Cary Pollak

After a temporary relocation in 2012 to the National Building Museum, one of our area’s most delightful and delicious benefit events returns to its previous home at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on September 6 from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Charity in Chocolate features over 50 stations providing an abundant, well balanced buffet including candies, cakes and cookies, as well as an extensive array of savory offerings from some of our finest local chefs. An open bar is another available amenity.

Executive Chef Susan Delbert of the Fourth Estate Restaurant at the National Press Club

serves chicken satays with chocolate, coconut and peanut sauce at Charity in Chocolate in 2012.

As if sweets, savories and libations are not enough, the highlight of this unique soiree is a “chocolate fashion show” during which costumes designed by talented chefs are on parade. The models are draped in beautiful creations made of edible ingredients such as chocolates and more. The chefs, all of whom demonstrate great taste, might delight the audience with anything from gumdrop gowns, to licorice lapels, to bon bon bodices. Even accessories such as purses, baskets and shoes might be made of items found more often in a kitchen than a closet.

Models backstage get ready for the runway in 2011.

The show is amusing as well as creative, and has been known to bring good natured “Snickers” from the audience. At the 2012 edition of Charity and Chocolate, one model was dressed as Little Bo Peep with hundreds of macaroons affixed to the bottom half of her dress. As she walked the runway and dropped a few cookies, the dog that came with her dutifully snapped them up, to the delight of the crowd. The winning costume that year was a sweet and sexy rendition of the Queen of Hearts presented by pastry sous chef Shaun McCarty of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

2012 Chocolate Fashion Show winner, “The Queen of Hearts.”

Charity in Chocolate is an annual fundraising event for the Heart of America Foundation, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, DC that promotes literacy for children living in poverty throughout the country. Since 1997, HOA has distributed 3.4 million books to local school libraries and reading spaces, making reading material accessible to more than one million children. The goal of improving childhood literacy is accomplished through a network of staff, sponsors and an array of volunteers, who have contributed more than one million hours in local communities.

White chocolate brownies with honey chipotle frosting

and candied orange by chef Billy Klein of Café Saint-Ex.

A highlight of this year’s event is a raffle offering prizes such as dining experiences at excellent local restaurants and getaways to local, national and international destinations. Raffle tickets are $20 and each will buy eight books for children in under-resourced schools and homes. Because only 2,000 tickets are being sold, the chances of winning are quite good. Another feature will be a special celebration of Italian culture and cuisine. Accordingly, the Honorary Co-Chairpersons for the evening are His Excellency The Ambassador of Italy and Mrs. Claudio Bisogniero. Other luminaries who are helping to make this great evening possible are Host Committee Chair Ken Harvey, President and CEO of JAKA Consulting Group, and Chef Chair Victor Albisu, Chef/Owner of Del Campo and Taco Bamba restaurants.

Charity in Chocolate promises to serve up a delectable evening for a worthy cause. Individual tickets cost $110, tables of $10 go for $900 and VIP tickets are available for $250.

See for more details.


Sunday’s Cosmopolitan Brunch at The Curious Grape

By Richard Sommerfeld & Donna Christenson

Tucked around the corner from Shirlington’s main eating thoroughfare is one of our favorite restaurants — The Curious Grape. And now it is the latest entrant to the Sunday brunch scene, and will be a top contender on any list of “Best Brunches”. (For more details about the stellar wine and food combinations on The Curious Grape dinner menu, scroll down to our previous article “Try To Find Something To Wine About!”.) We LOVE The Curious Grape and think you will, too!

Executive Chef Eric McKamey’s menu is not your typical brunch menu either. He stresses a fresh, seasonable table with excellent presentation. Enjoy your Sunday brunch indoors or outside on the patio.

The Curious Grape really is like a playground for wine and food lovers, just as their website says, and now they’ve brought that playful spirit into festive trios of imaginative brunch cocktails. Starting with a sample flight of Bloody Mary’s especially crafted to accompany the international theme of the brunch menu, we tried the Italian Ciao Bella Maria, a Spanish Bloody Maria and a Chinese Beijing Mary. As on the dinner menu, wines are available by the half glass as well as full glass or bottle, and are arranged by style (“Light, Crisp Whites” or “Medium-bodied Reds” for example) so you can pair each item with exactly the right wine in exactly the desired amount.

We enjoyed the doughnuts with wild boar, hoisin sauce and cilantro that looked more like three sliders than breakfast pastries. And don’t miss the cremini mushroom soup, a favorite we had tried before when it was on the dinner menu. Other interesting starters include blintzes filled with a lovely fluffy ricotta, then seared in olive oil, thyme and caramelized honey. Or there’s buffalo mozzarella, serrano ham and oven-dried pineapple …or perhaps Yukon Gold potato croquettes with black truffle crème fraiche to savor.

Just as the starters were intentionally not the typical brunch items one would find at other local restaurants or even some of the notable hotels downtown, the unusual selection of entrees will pique your curiosity as well as your taste buds. You can literally eat your way around the world with an Austrian pancake soufflé or a Spanish breakfast potato and leek tortilla with crispy serrano ham or flat iron corned beef sweet potato hash with a poached egg and salsa verde.

Where else can you find a selection of mini cheese soufflés baked to order, or a cheese fondue for brunch? And be sure to save room for their exquisite and unique desserts. Consider a passion fruit crème brulee with coconut lemongrass ice cream, or perhaps a deep, dark chocolate secret paired with port-infused cherry ice cream.

If you just want a cup of coffee and something from the bakery, you might order a mini pastry selection of muffins, scones, lemon poppy-seed bread and cinnamon buns. One standout pastry is the coconut lavender muffin which is absolutely scrummy. The Curious Grape also has a bakery case so you can grab and go with a cup of coffee or tea. All that, and an excellent selection of wines, cheeses and other specialty items available to purchase.

Sunday brunch is served from 10:30 AM to 2:30 PM at The Curious Grape Wine, Dine & Shop, located in Shirlington Village at 2900 South Quincy Street, Arlington, VA 22206. Call (703) 671-8700 or check out their website Reservations are also available through

photos by Donna Christenson



La Bottega, a Hilltop Jewel in Tuscany

Restaurant Review by Rozanne Weissman

Traveling up and down a narrow, winding, twisting, dark country road that leads to the medieval fortified village of Volpaia, I couldn't wait to get to La Bottega, our restaurant destination in Tuscany, the mecca of wonderful Italian food. After having seen a "lucky" rainbow over the hills of Tuscany the day I arrived from Siena, I had great hopes for this dinner.

La Bottega di Volpaia, in recent reviews, is ranked #4 on trip of 23 restaurants in Radda in Chianti, Tuscany. The beautiful view from the outdoor dining terrace of the hilltop restaurant is mentioned almost as much as the food.

A family-owned restaurant, La Bottega provides a sense of an Italian family through its warm atmosphere, Barucci family photos—including the dogs Ombra e Pallina—going back to the ‘40s, its brochure, and its poorly translated but charming online profile.

Carla cooks and runs the restaurant, Mother Gina lends her considerable talents to making pasta and some desserts, Father Oriano tends to the vegetable garden and make salami, and little sister Paola runs the separate renovated wine bar—once a cattle shed where horses were given shelter and sheep, goats, and poultry occupied smaller rooms. In a play on the family name, the wine bar is appropriately named Bar-Ucci.

Though not part of the Barucci family, even the young Romanian servers charm and flirt like Italians.

The menu revolves around simplicity and tradition. The emphasis in their materials: Living simple moments in full consciousness.

After finishing the fabulous first courses of homemade ravioli with sage and butter and tagliatelle with truffles, I asked to meet the maker

of the handmade pasta. Mother Gina was so delighted about my praise and request for a photo that she smiled warmly, opened her arms and hugged me, and then posed for the photo. Her warm smile and big hug reminded me of my own departed mother who also loved to cook and bake. Real Tuscan cuisine is “better than the best sex you’ve ever had,” The Washington Post travel section article quotes Antoinette “Toni” Mazzaglia, founder of the gastronomic excursion Taste Florence. I wouldn’t go that far. The pasta and desserts (I had a wonderful panna cotta), are the standouts at La Bottega di Volpaia. The chicken “cipollata” style was good, but, frankly, a veal entrée that was supposed to be veal roulade, but wasn't when the menu changed, left something to be desired on both taste and presentation.

And of course, there's the wine. I sat with a great view of the restaurant's wine cellar. No surprise that both the restaurant and wine bar favors “Chianti classico” wines of the region. It's traditionally aged in big oak barrels. There is also a selection of white and red wines that come from outside Chianti and different areas of Tuscany, but blend well with dishes on the menu.

Paola Barucci even presents the wine as part of the "family." She says, "I know all the wine producers and their wine-making methods personally." Here is how she describes some of them:

  • CASTELLO DI BROLIO. Mr. Ferrini is the oenologist who makes a traditional wine, though a very round one, which always suits my customers’ taste.
  • PRUNETO. Riccardo is a lifelong friend, and a crazy vine-dresser, whose expert hands can both make a good product and respect Chianti typology.
  • QUERCIABELLA. Dales the agronomist follows the biodynamic method, which made me appreciate his product even more.
  • ANTICO BORGO DI SUGAME. A Geonese in Chiantiland! A kind of wine I really like, made in one of the highest places in Chiantiland.
  • GIOIA. My friend Gioia is a great oenologist and she makes a woman’s wine: a great wine, as “only” women can do!
  • MONTEMAGGIO. Ilaria is the agronomist who runs her wine factory with the energy of a man. A great wine with intense flavors.
  • VAL DELLE CORTI. Roberto is a farmer and in his small wine factory he only produces Chianti and Chianti riserva.
  • VILLA SANT’ANNA. A women-run wine factory (and what women!). A great noble wine, with the typical fruity notes of this vine.
  • SAN DONATINO. Leo Ferré had once bought this wine factory, which is run today by his wife, his son and his daughter-in-law.
  • CASTELLO D’ALBOLA. My hill neighbors. They make traditional Chianti in their amazing estate.

Bar-Ucci, the totally separate wine bar with its own terrace and various rooms, also serves various types of salami, cheeses, La Panzanella, the popular bread salad, crostini and bruschetta, and ricciarelli an

d cantucci Italian biscuits. If you're in Tuscany, enjoy lunch or dinner with the Barucci family or wine tasting with their "extended family" of wines from the region.

As you can see, DCdigest's Rozanne Weissman had a great time with the flirtatious waiters in Tuscany!



MetroCooking DC: THE 2012 METROPOLITAN


By Cary Pollak

Do you like to cook? Do you like to entertain, to see famous television chefs live on stage, to see almost nonstop cooking demonstrations from fabulous local chefs virtually for free? Oh, almost forgot one. Do you like food? If you answered yes to any of the above, you surely should attend MetroCooking DC, the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show coming to the DC Convention Center on November 3 and 4. Exhibitors and guests come from all over the country to catch this grand production, so those of us within commuting distance of the convention center would be remiss to miss it.

Oh sure, you can go to Whole Foods or Dean and Deluca to pick out and purchase countless epicurean items that you may well enjoy once you get them home. At MetroCooking DC, however, you can stop by hundreds of booths where representatives of gourmet goody producers are there to greet you, educate you and in many cases, feed you. In addition to the aisles filled with exhibitors and cooking demos, the show offers tasting and entertaining workshops, book signings and even a Beer, Wine and Spirits pavilion.

The Tiny Kitchen, Inc., produces the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show which has been an annual event in our area since 2006. That longevity alone is a sign that they have struck the right chord with both the trade and the public. And you might notice that they've had to change their name a bit, not only because MetroCooking DC is growing larger, but the event now takes place annually in Houston and Dallas as well as DC.

These folks know how to draw talent. It’s not every day that you get to see Food Network and other television stars performing live. Among them is Iron Chef Michael Symon, who will be a long way from television’s Kitchen Stadium when he graces the Celebrity Stage at the MCES. Another visiting luminary is culinary expert and food writer Gail Simmons, who has been a judge on BRAVO’s Emmy winning series Top Chef since the show’s inception in 2006. Chef Jeff Mauro won season seven of Food Network Star. That would be a serious accomplishment for anyone, let alone this former comedian. He now has his own show on that network, Sandwich King. Speaking of culinary kings, another visiting celebrity will be world famous chef Jacques Pepin, who has published 25 cookbooks and hosted nine public television cooking series. With him will be his daughter, Claudine, who has teamed up with her dad often on TV.

If your taste runs more to local fare, a cadre of fabulous chefs and cooking experts from the DC area will be performing one after another on the Food Lion Stage during the show. My personal favorite within this group of James Beard Award winners and nominees is Francois Dionot, founder and director of L’Academie de Cuisine, widely recognized as one of the best culinary institutes in the country. I took classes from Francois on a weekly basis for almost a year when L’Academie first opened its doors in 1976. I thus can assure you that watching a demonstration by this world famous chef and instructor will, by itself, be worth more than the price of admission to the entire show.

Francois will be in good company on the cooking stage. Also appearing will be Scott Drewno, Executive Chef at The Source by Wolfgang Puck, which is widely recognized as one of the very best restaurants in the DC area. Chef Drewno has plied his trade at a number of famous restaurants around the country, including stints as Executive Sous Chef at Spago in Las Vegas and as Executive Chef at Ruby Foo’s in New York City. Other participating chefs include Guillermo Pernot, chef and part owner of the atmospheric Cuba Libre, Justine Bittner, Executive Chef of trendy Bar Pilar, and Victor Albisu, who led the kitchen at BLT Steak when it was named Power Spot of the Year in 2012, by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. Don’t be surprised if Chef Albisu prepares innovative morsels that will be featured at Taco Bamba, his new venture that will open soon in Falls Church.

At a press preview, Food Network Star Chef Jeff Mauro chatted via Skype from New York about his show Sandwich King and about the delicious Cubano sandwich flown fresh to him from DC by Cuba Libre's Chef/Owner Guillermo Pernot. The Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show's founder Denise Medved (right) highlighted the celebrity chefs such as Giada De Laurentis (pictured on screen) who will be featured at this year's show. [photos/captions by Donna Christenson]

Regular ticket prices start at $24.50 for a one day general admission to the show, and can be ordered on line at That ticket provides access to the exhibit floor, to the Food Lion cooking stage and to tasting and entertaining workshops. Separate tickets can be purchased for the celebrity theater, celebrity book signings and VIP events. See the Calendar of Events page for a special link for discounted tickets as low as $14.00.


Blue Crab Salsa, Coffee Creations in a Spray Can, and Cookies paired with Wine!

Just a few of the fabulous possibilities awaiting you at MetroCooking DC, the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show

photo/essay by Donna Christenson

With so much to see and do at MetroCooking DC (as described in Cary Pollak's preceding article), you can easily keep busy for two full days just learning from celebrity chef cooking demonstrations and sampling tasty treats from local chefs, too. But plan to spend a lot of time discovering new products to enhance your culinary life at home. Many of the featured vendors are local entrepreneurs who have created food items that are out of this world. Most can be both sampled and purchased at the show.

For example, Kaldi Olive Oil from Greece is made from rare Kolovi and Andramytiani olives grown and imported from their family's olive groves on the Greek island of Lesvos by two brothers who live in northern Virginia. Kaldi Tomato Sauces are made from authentic family recipes dating back to 1895. Recipes and more at

Another innovative idea is called inventi, a spray can blend of five imported coffees that allows you to transform milk, water or other ingredients into exotic coffee creations, from iced coffees to milkshakes to martinis. It also can be used to create dessert toppings, sorbet, chocolate mousse, Irish coffee ...or whatever your imagination dreams up!

And who can resist products like Toto's Blue Crab Salsa from Maryland, Wisteria Gardens Serrano Ginger Pepper Sauce from Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, Mango Bango Infusion Hot Sauce made in Rockville, Maryland or the Smokey Mountain Special from Blue Ridge Jams

But wait, there's more!!! The wonderful German chocolatier Lindt has come up with a delectable array of new chocolatey confections in varying shapes and sizes, with flavors like Strawberry Cheesecake or Caramel Brownie, all enveloped in chocolate. Pure decadence!

Another new product we really enjoy is a line of savory cookies designed to pair well with different types of wine. For example, Cookies & Corks, made by Cookie Zen in Falls Church, Virginia, suggests white cheddar rosemary with red wine, or perhaps espresso chocolate peanut butter cookies.

Gator Ron's Zesty Sauces & Mixes has another compelling local story behind the scenes. Connie Griffith, president and chief executive officer, features recipes created by her husband Ron, who later died of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. After promising him she would not give away his secret recipes, she started the company in 2011 and donates ten percent of the proceeds to ALS research.

Looking for something unique, as well as tasty as a snack with cocktails? Goodness Gracie has yummy specialty items that will make your mouth water. Choose sesame almond snacks or Buffalo Blue Cheese Pretzel Bites or perhaps a variety of sweet or savory choices in Gracie's Office Party ...the hard part will be deciding!

Our goal this weekend will be to discover and sample as many wonderful new specialty items as we possibly can, especially those made in our local area. It's a daunting task, but somebody has to do it!!! See you there!

MetroCooking DC, the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show at the DC Convention Center on November 3 and 4.

See the Calendar of Events page for a special link for discounted tickets as low as $14.00.