Monday January 27, 2014
It’s Restaurant Week!! Learn about Alexandria’s magnet restaurants and what they mean to our city’s regional and national appeal.
In recent years, the reputation of Washington’s restaurant scene has soared nationally. Not coincidentally, more Alexandria restaurants are climbing the list of DC’s top dining venues. Our celebration of Alexandria’s dining scene features Chef Cathal Armstrong – one of the best-known chefs in the culinary industry, exhibiting great culinary command creativitiy, technique, presentation, and even business. He will share his vision – including why he chose Alexandria as the base for his growing gastronomic empire. Alexandria-based food writer Jordan Wright will talk about Alexandria’s rising stature in the DC dining scene and share tips on places you should know about. Claire Mouledoux of the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association (the organization that gives us “Restaurant Week”) will explain how this dining renaissance benefits our city.
|Star Chef Cathal Armstrong
Irish chef Cathal Armstrong’s cuisine and philosophy reflect ideas planted in the atypical Dublin household of his childhood, where garlic was used fearlessly and fruits and vegetables were grown in the garden. The family’s travel business launched Armstrong into a myriad of different countries, cultures and cuisines where he began to develop an appreciation for gastronomy in the differing landscapes of Europe. As the family traveled, Armstrong was educated in the languages he now speaks fluently: English, French, Spanish, German and Irish. For those not versed in the Dubliner’s native language, the “t” in Cathal is silent.
At the age of seven, Armstrong began his annual student exchange in France with the Boudain family. His food curriculum involved visiting truffle-farms and vineyards, eating peasant-style food and picking fruits and vegetables on the farm. These early culinary experiences inspired Armstrong’s philosophy. He is committed to sourcing locally, valuing animals and respecting the land, so much so that Armstrong cites innovative farmer David Lankford of Davon Crest Farms in Maryland as one of his biggest inspirations. Armstrong is now an active member of The American Farmland Trust, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting the nation’s agricultural resources.
At the age of 20, Armstrong opened a fine dining restaurant in the Dublin suburbs with two partners. After a two-year tenure atThe Baytree, Armstrong decided to move to Washington DC where for the next 11 years he moved his way through various top kitchens learning the fundamentals from mentors including Greg Mitchell of New Heightsand Jeffrey Buben of Bistro Bis. It was during his time spent at Gabriel under Gregory Hill that Armstrong met his future wife and business partner Meshelle Armstrong. Together, they dreamed of a place where they could balance a commitment to farmers with their vision of fine dining.
The Armstrongs found it in Alexandria, where in April 2004, 13 years after first arriving in DC, they opened Restaurant Eve. The modern American restaurant (with French, Spanish and Irish influences) showcased Armstrong’s playful personal style and deep-rooted commitment to purveyors. In the summer of 2006, Armstrong openedEamonn’s A Dublin Chipper and PX, or The PX, a cocktail-driven speakeasy lounge five blocks from Restaurant Eve. Both venues are named for Armstrong’s children, Eve and Eamonn. Armstrong has since been inducted into the Share Our Strength Leadership Council, a group of culinary notables from around the country who advise this non-profit dedicated to eradicating childhood hunger in the U.S. Armstrong’s self-described “pork fetish” and the Irish roots at the base of his culinary experience are showcased in decadent but playful dishes like “Bacon, Egg, and Cheese.” The dish makes full use of the versatility of pork fat with a cured and braised pork belly, seared to order, a tender crepe with ham and leeks, and a rich golden cheddar foam.
Alexandria Convention & Visitors Association
Claire is the Director of Communications for ACVA, Alexandria’s nonprofit tourism marketing organization, which contributes to the economic vitality of the city. Each year $738 million in visitor spending generates $23.7 million in tax revenue, providing needed city services and helping to support the community’s many small businesses. Claire directs the overall message and voice of the Alexandria visitor brand by managing ACVA’s communications strategies and guiding a team of professionals in media relations, social media and digital marketing. An Old Town resident with a passion for the city, she has been promoting the allure of Alexandria’s remarkable dining, shopping, arts and history for nearly four years as part of the ACVA team. Formerly the Director of Communications for the Torpedo Factory Art Center, she currently serves on the advisory board of The Art League and is an active member of the Mid-Atlantic Tourism Public Relations Alliance.VisitAlexandriaVA.com
| Jordan Wright
Whisk & Quill
|Jordan Wright is an accomplished writer on food, spirits, travel, and theatre. Her clients have included the tony Georgetowner and hip sister publication the Downtowner, the Washington Examiner and San Francisco Examiner, as well as LocalKicks.com, DC Metro Magazine, Washington Life Magazine, Washingtonian Magazine, MDTheatreGuide.com, Indian Country Today On-Line and Print Publications, The Alexandria Times, Hartkeisonline.com, and now DCMetroTheaterArts. Her articles feature restaurant openings, food and wine events, food-oriented film reviews, food trends, restaurant reviews, food memories, new food products, hotels, spas, resorts and interviews with the country’s leading chefs – from Jose Andres and Top Chef’s Carla Hall, to CakeLove’s Warren Brown and Top Chef’s Spike Mendelsohn. She has also interviewed famed chef and TV star, Anthony Bourdain, Eric Ripert, cookbook author Joan Nathan, and director Robert Kenner for an in-depth article about his film Food, Inc.
Alan Dubow, Shari Bolouri, Terri Hauser andMichael Hobbs
All programs are held at:
Holiday Inn Eisenhower Metro Center - 2460 Eisenhower Avenue CLICK HERE for directions
Reception at 6:15 p.m. (Cash Bar) Buffet Dinner at 6:45 p.m.
||SAVE BY PLANNING
||with reservations made by 5:00 pm on the Friday prior to each meeting
||for late reservations and walk-ins
Program only 7:15 p.m. (free to members/$5 non-members) - Presentations are followed by a question and answer session based on written questions from the audience. Programs end promptly at 9 P.M.
Dinner reservations strongly encouraged. Seating is not guaranteed for walk-ins. CLICK HERE TO RESERVE YOUR SPACE
Agenda:Alexandria, a non-partisan, non-profit organization which began in 1998, sponsors eight dinner meetings a year with presentations on topics of interest to Alexandrians. Membership is only $35 a year and open to anyone, whether or not you live or work in Alexandria. Topics are wide-ranging and past topics have included such issues as transportation, education, the arts, public safety, history and preservation, public health, the City budget, the waterfront, the environment and aging in Alexandria.
Special to The Washington Examiner
May 2, 2011
Ah! The requisite Mother’s Day brunch tradition – a singular opportunity to secure your yearly standing with your mother, grandmother, spouse or mother-in-law. Here are a few elegant dining ideas designed to take it up a royal notch.
Adour at the St. Regis Hotel – Executive Chef Julian Jouhannaud, helming Alain Ducasse’s DC outpost, presents a glorious five-star fixed price menu that echoes spring with yellow fin tuna tartare, seared foie gras with wild apples and grapes, Ducasse’s ambrosial signature cookpot of green vegetables coupled with mushroom duxelle, and a choice of Maine lobster thermidor with morels, striped bass Riviera style with braised fennel, or roast veal loin with au gratin vegetables. For dessert, think regally, with the Louis XV praline crunch and raspberry macaron with rosewater cream. Brunch is $88.00 per guest and is served from 11 till 4pm. For reservations call 202 509-8000.
Kiwi Mango Mousse at Seasons - photo credit to Jordan Wright
Seasons at The Four Seasons Hotel – Under Executive Chef Doug Anderson’s beautifully expressed cuisine, mothers will be duly impressed with the sumptuous open buffet as they dine beside the C & O Canal in tony Georgetown.
The elegant dining room features lavish breakfast fare of omelets, cheese blintzes with wild blueberry sauce, and fresh berry-topped waffles to iced oysters, shrimp, crab claws, snapper seviche, house-cured salmon, grilled octopus with citrus and caper salad and Maine lobster rolls. Carved rack of lamb and beef sit beside a groaning board of dozens of crafted salads and hot side dishes like double truffle meatloaf cupcakes, green pea and Virginia ham arancini, mini chicken pot pies. A separate room is devoted entirely to the most exquisite desserts imaginable. The gold standard for brunch in this city. Brunch is $100.00 per guest and is served from 10 till 3pm. For reservations call 202 944-2000.
CityZen at the Mandarin Oriental, uber Chef Eric Ziebold has a dazzling open buffet menu with a modern American twist featuring such delicious openers as blackened tuna with pickled okra, blue fish rillettes and smoked salmon. To refresh the palate choose tangerine and beet or a light asparagus salad. Brunch classics include scrambled eggs with biscuits and country gravy, dark and stormy ribs, Nona’s Cecelio’s spinach malfate and barbequed Carolina shrimp. Dessert is playful with made-to-order crèpes, butterscotch popcorn and banana pudding to mention a few. Brunch is $65.00 per guest and is served from 11 to 3pm. For reservations call 202 787-6868.
At the Park Hyatt Hotel’s Blue Duck Tavern in DC’s West End Executive Chef Brian McBride, alongside new hire Sous Chef Eric Fleischer, presents a three-course brunch with starters and desserts served buffet style, and entrees ordered from a specially designed menu. Here you’ll find eggs served with rock shrimp and potato roesti or cod cakes with buttermilk sauce, lump crab cakes, mustard seed crusted salmon with champagne cream, roasted beef tenderloin with foie gras sauce, and braised lamb shank with fava beans. Brunch is served from 10:30 to 3:45pm and is $90.00 per guest. For reservations call 202 419-6755.
The Jockey Club at the Fairfax Hotel is the posh spot for the embassy crowd and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton who loves the Dover sole here. Executive Chef Mark Timms has been wooing and wowing guests with his creativity and classic technique since his arrival this February. Mother’s Day brunch at the hotel features starters like matzoh ball soup with chicken and dill, local field greens with lavender vinaigrette or carrot parfait with caramelized ginger. Fabulous entrees are the sea bass with orange mist cream, roasted sunchokes and pistachio powder, beef tenderloin with duck fat fried potato logs, chicken Wellington with buttered foie gras mashed potatoes, or scallops with pickled watermelon and lemon curd. Dessert is chocolate crème brûlée with pistachio biscotti. Brunch is $40.00 per guest. For reservations call 202 835-2100.
Special to The Washington Examiner
La Naissance de VénusUffizi – Gallery in Florence,Italy
Rosemary, figs, pine nuts, honey. Oysters, grapes, avocado, chiles. Strawberries, coffee, lavender, ginger. Of all the foods reputed to inspire romance, it is chocolate that is most closely associated with gift giving on Valentine’s Day.
Whether its powers for sexual desire are provable or not, has researchers in a conundrum. Since years of testing can’t confirm it as fact, current science holds that the two major chemicals found in chocolate, phenylethylamine (related to amphetamine) and seratonin, contain mood-lifting endorphins.
And what about all the other ingredients purported to enhance romance? Ancient cultures have their favorites, and if lavender works for the French and pine nuts for the Italians, well, who are we to say. As far as the term, “aphrodisiac” goes, credit goes to the Greek goddess of Love, Aphrodite, known around Rome as Venus, unquestionably one of the hottest babes in history, whose son was Cupid. You make the call.
If you could ingest a few sensual foods in one fell swoop delectably enrobed in chocolate, would your sweetheart be doubly or triply affectionate? Food for thought indeed.
Here are some exceptional local sources to explore.
At ACKC Chocolates Cocoa Bar Café in Downtown DC artisan chocolatier, Rob Kingsbury has been creating inspired sweets for a discriminating clientele since 2002, when he opened his first shop on King Street in Old Town Alexandria. Kingsbury comes from four generations of candy-makers who sold maple-flavored popcorn balls from their maple syrup farm in Vermont.
His highly original handmade chocolate confections boast dozens of unusual infusions and one of the most sought after is his “Strawberry Pink”, a dark chocolate bar with strawberries and pink peppercorns. Other striking flavor harmonics are a dark chocolate bar with pine nuts, Herbes de Provence, sunflower and pumpkin seeds and sea salt or the exotic “Chipotle 5-Spice Bar” infused with smoky jalapenos and a blend of cinnamon, anise, fennel, cloves and white pepper. Or get three aphrodisiacal ingredients in one ganache-filled bite with his Honey Ginger Truffles. ww.thecocoagallery.com
Another source is the kitchens of chocolatier Wilhelm Wanders of Chocolaterie Wanderings whose European-influenced stylings are reflected in his hand-crafted confections, well-known to crazed chocophiles. “I use honey for nearly all my confections,” he reveals. Biagio’s in DC, The Sugar Cube in Alexandria, VA and The Inn at Little Washington will all feature his heart-shaped truffles with hand-piped jasmine tea ganache, as well as a very pretty dark chocolate bergamot-scented Earl Grey tea truffle garnished with a lavender flower. www.chocolateriewanderings.com
Special to The Washington Examiner
Fabio Trabocchi with National Gallery of Art Chef David Rogers at the recently opened exhibit - image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art
As I sit in the gutted remains of what was once chef Yannick Cam’s glamorous Le Paradou, I am listening to Fabio Trabocchi, the formidable chef from Le Marche, Italy and his stunningly beautiful Spanish wife, Maria, describe their new restaurant-to-be, Fiola.
“The floors will be mosaic tiled and there will be a 56-foot marble bar,” he urges me to conjure up. “The ceilings will be golden domes with dark glossed wood for the tables and super-comfortable caramel leather chairs.” But it is January, the place is frigid and stage one of the renovations is a far cry from the expected transformation. I struggle to imagine the sunny space as a sumptuous retreat for his haute clientele. A whole section of the restaurant will be raised up three feet, “We don’t want anyone to feel as though they are sitting in Siberia,” he tells me, referring to the back of the restaurant which was down three steps and felt like Siberia.
Workmen are stationed in every corner of this immense space – a hive of activity – they invade not just in the front of the house, but behind the scenes in the vast state-of-the-art kitchen with its warren of rooms for cooking, prepping and baking. A glimpse of the wine storage, reveals room after room and row and row of endless racks reaching clear to the top of 10-foot ceilings, their hundreds of carved wooden niches ready to cradle precious bottles of barolo, brunello and vin santo.
The couple had met here in the mid-90s when it was Bice. “He was only 20, fresh off the boat from Italy and a skinny little thing,” Maria tells me. “Not my idea of what a chef would look like. But it was our love story.”
Prosciutto San Daniele (Prosciutto, marinated eggplant, Parmigiano-Reggiano, aged balsamic vinegar)
Mozzarella caprese (buffalo mozzarella, tomato, basil, and extra virgin olive oil)
Though still attending university in Spain, she had arrived in Washington at the same time as Fabio on what was to be a short internship at Bice. “I had to ring up my father to find out how to make a wine list,” she confesses. As fate would have it the chef and the manager fell in love soon after they met, and the restaurant’s management sent the two off to her homeland in Marbella to run a luxury five-star hotel and high-end restaurant along the Iberian coast, where it was not uncommon to see celeb neighbors, Antonio Banderas and Sean Connery, drop by when they were in town. Their next stop was a posh hotel in London’s Knightsbridge area for a few years before they returned to DC. Not exactly hardship posts.
When at last Trabocchi found a restaurant that would give him total control of his cuisine, he blossomed and during his six-year reign at Maestro in the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner, he consistently garnered effusive reviews.
But he needed a bigger stage and stunned his loyal clientele when he went to New York City where he briefly helmed the now-shuttered Fiamma Osteria. Although Frank Bruni, food critic of The New York Times, went head over heels for Trabocchi’s cooking, bestowing a three-star rating, the economic downturn could not stave the restaurant’s demise.
Maria and Fabio, who even in jeans look like they just sprung from the pages of Italian Vogue, have moved back to DC, “to the city we have always loved” and his impatience to reclaim the top rung with Fiola is palpable.
Tiramisù classico e cioccolato (classic tiramisu with chocolate sauce)
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, served with house-made preserves, honey, grissini, and pane carasau
He describes it as “super-elegant and seasonal with straightforward and approachable regional cuisine inspired by my cookbook”. Of course he will still prepare his signature dishes…the lobster ravioli and lasagna from the Le Marche region. “My clientele wouldn’t let me back in town without having these on the menu!” he teases.
Until Fiola opens this April his followers will have to be content with sampling some of his specialties at the Garden Café Italia launched this week at the National Gallery of Art. It dovetails with the just-opened and spectacular exhibit, “Venice: Canaletto and His Rivals”.
“Now we are on two sides of Pennsylvania Avenue. I’m getting closer to the White House!” he jokes, reflecting on the coincidental convergence of the two locations.
See him this Sunday at the museum at noon and at 1pm for “The Italian Pantry”: Part I Demonstration with Chef Fabio Trabocchi at the Cascade Café, Concourse where he is joined by Chef David Rogers of Restaurant Associates and senior lecturer Eric Denker to discuss staple items for Italian cuisine. This first of three demonstrations to be held during 2011 will focus on Italian breads, olives, olive oils, and cheese—from Canaletto’s day to the present. Chef Trabocchi will also sign copies of his book Cucina of Le Marche: A Chef’s Treasury of Recipes from Italy’s Last Culinary Frontier, available in the Gallery Shops.
To view Garden Café Italia’s menu visit – www.nga.gov/dining
To keep track of Fiola’s April opening visit – www.fioladc.com
Special to The DC Metro Magazine
Signature Theatre’s new and permanent digs in Shirlington Village have provided the perfect marriage of good food and entertainment. Running late? No problem. Their café has an eclectic selection of delicious soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts to enjoy in the expansive bar and lounge area. Pair with a glass of wine or one of many craft beers. Still playing “Sunset Boulevard” continues to draw a packed house until February 13th. Then catch the world premiere of the new musical “Wheatley’s Folly” in March. Check the schedule for the more intimate Cabaret Nights in The Ark. (sig-online.org)
BusBoys and Poet
If hip and politically left is your bent then you’ll treasure Busboys and Poets. Reminiscent of an old style bookshop cum coffee house, owner, activist and arts supporter, Andy Shallal encourages lingering and dialogue with music, open mic nights and poetry slams. The casual fare is affordable and delicious with pizzas, paninis, salads and full-on entrees. (busboysandpoets.com)
T.H.A.I. is the best and prettiest Thai restaurant in the area. Chef Aulie prepares her flavorful thai-with-a-twist cuisine from her grandmother’s recipes in a sleek modern setting. Service is prompt and, as with all restaurants in Shirlington, they are super-aware of guests trying to make curtain time. (thaiinshirlington.com)
Samuel Beckett’s Gastro Pub serves Irish food in a large but cozy bi-level pub that pays tribute to the iconic dramatist. Local restauranteur Mark Kirwan who hails from the Auld Sod, gets it just right with traditional and new Irish comfort food. A large selection of esoteric Irish whiskeys, and 12 different Irish beers are on tap. Stays open for late night dining. (samuelbecketts.com)
Aladdin’s presents Middle Eastern cuisine with an extensive Lebanese-inspired menu. Be sure to try one of seven kinds of herbal teas or a fresh fruit smoothie with the “pitzas”, pitas, salads, kaftas and kabobs. (aladdinseatery.com)
Ping by Charlie Chang’s is a dazzling bright red space serving Modern Asian cuisine with small plates, unique Asian fare, and dozens of sushi and nigiri options in their Shina Lounge. (charliechangs.com)
Arena Stage opened their $35 million dollar glamorous new digs this past fall to thunderous applause. Next Stage by José Andrés is where the uber-chef designs the dinner menus to reflect the current production. Open two and a half hours before curtain time, reservations are highly recommended. Upscale light fare is sold at Concessions. Before the show, sip champagne on the lofty terrace with a waterfront view. (arenastage.org)
CityZen at Mandarin
CityZen in the five-star Mandarin Hotel is noted chef Eric Ziebold’s fantasy creation, reflecting a fine French dining experience with innovative cuisine in a stunning setting. The fixed price menu is full of inspired seasonal dishes. Also in the hotel is Sou’Wester, Ziebold’s interpretation of regional American cooking featuring hearty, wholesome cuisine from fried chicken to red velvet cake. (mandarinoriental.com)
Phillips Flagship is the granddaddy of seafood restaurants in Washington DC. This location overlooking the Potomac River is well known for their all-you-can-eat seafood buffet, featuring over 30 selections, and dockside dining. (phillipsseafood.com)
The Shakespeare Theatre Company, with its Lansburgh Theatre and nearby Sidney Harman Hall, has a wealth of dining options in its Penn Quarter neighborhood. (shakespearetheatre.org)
Fogo de Chao is a carnivore’s carnival. With 15 different cuts of flame-grilled meats sliced tableside, it serves Southern Brazilian churrascaria including a lavish salad bar in an attractive white-linen Gaucho-themed atmosphere. (fogodechao.com)
Carmine’s has burst onto the scene in recent months with its signature style of abbondanza. Originating in New York City, this wildly popular resto offers mega-portions of classic Italian recipes like your nonna, if you had one, would make for the famiglia. Make sure to sample their famous meatballs. (carminesnyc.com)
At Ella’s Wood Fired Pizza you’ll find pizzas, calzones, pastas and salads in a low-key casual spot that uses high-end toppings on crisp-crust pizzas. This Neapolitan-inspired restaurant also offers gluten-free crusts and lots of vegan options. (ellaspizza.com)
Jaleo - Photo Credit: Greg Powers & Audrey Crewe
Jaleo – José Andrés triumphs in his ever-popular Spanish-themed tapas restaurant featuring dozens of scrumptious small plates. Perfect for grazing or dining over a pitcher of sangrias and six varieties of regional paellas. This is where you’ll find the luscious Iberican ham. (jaleo.com)
A fashionable destination with a theatrical décor, Zola is known for its out-of-the-box cool American cuisine. Stunning seasonal selections and artisanal cocktails showcase Executive Chef Bryan Moscatello’s original fare. (zoladc.com)
The Kennedy Center is the jewel in the crown of area theatres. The splendid Roof Terrace Restaurant wows guests with exquisite pre-theatre American Modern seasonal dishes by Chef Joe Gurner. Reservations recommended. (kennedy-center.org)
Situated beside the Kennedy Center, newcomer Rivers at the Watergate Restaurant arrived recently with a splash. Whether pre- or post-dinner, its stylish cuisine attracts visiting performers and celebs who gather round the piano bar after the show. While recently in town, Marvin Hamlisch and the cast of “Hair” made this their regular hangout. (riversdc.com)
Parker House Rolls
Zola's Signature Scallop's Dish
West End Bistro is renowned chef Eric Ripert’s chic French-influenced American comfort food outpost. Known as a hip and fashionable destination among the local cognoscenti, its signature dishes are drawn from Ripert’s Provencal roots. (westendbistrodc.com)
Beloved local chef, Ris Lacoste, has finally opened her very own restaurant and brought her loyal following with her. A tip-top trendy spot, the food at the eponymously-named RIS is influenced by the local farmer’s market and elegantly tweaked classics. Her French onion soup is reason alone to check it out. (risdc.com)
Dine beneath suspended clouds with farm-to-table fare at the eco-friendly Founding Farmers Restaurant. Owned by a consortium of American farmers, it features handcrafted cocktails and heartland cuisine in an ultra-modern setting beside the IMF. (wearefoundingfarmers.com)