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Nibbles and Sips Around Town – April 3, 2015

Jordan Wright
April 3, 2015
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts

Peter Chang and Gen Lee Open Their Fifth Restaurant

Joan Nathan with Kaz Oguchi (left) and Gen Lee

Joan Nathan with Kaz Oguchi (left) and Gen Lee

Joan Nathan was holding court at the best table in the house during ‘friends and family’ night at Chang’s latest Virginia outpost, the eponymously titled, Peter Chang’s Arlington, where a breathtaking 17-course dinner was served family style.

Daisy Tofu Soup - Stir-fried Beef with Chili Peppers

Daisy Tofu Soup – Stir-fried Beef with Chili Peppers

The Sips & Suppers gang, hot off their successful fundraising dinners, had the party in full swing by the time I arrived.  Cindy and Colin Uckert, one of many couples who played host to local chefs and guests in January, were at our table of twelve.  (See my January interview with Gen Lee on Whisk and Quill – – http://whiskandquill.com/no-longer-runaway-chef-peter-chang-appear-sips-suppers)

At Peter Chang's - Pork Dumplings - Cumin Lamb Chops

At Peter Chang’s – Pork Dumplings – Cumin Lamb Chops

I will not regale you with every tasty dish, though each one was memorable in its own way.  Suffice it to say it was a true Sichuan cuisine banquet fueled by lively food and wine chatter from those in the know.

My prediction?  Lines around the block.  Look for Chang’s fine dining Chinese restaurant to open in Rockville this April.

For reservations and information visit www.PeterChangArlington.com.

Mango Tree is Just Ripe for the Picking 

After my interview with Richard Sandoval last December my antennae were way up anxiously awaiting the opening of his new spot in the very glam CityCenterDC on H Street.  Sandoval has the Midas touch when it comes to combining exotic flavors and creating trends and Mango Tree is no exception.  This latest jewel in his culinary crown is the twelfth Mango Tree, with others spread out across the globe from London to Bangkok and Dubai.

The sleek concept restaurant is decorated with saffron-hued banquettes, lots of dark wood, and both an upstairs and downstairs bar.  I was pleased to note that they are at last open for lunch service, albeit with a smaller menu.  Some of the dishes are already getting quite a buzz.

This Spring Mango Tree has gotten on board with other U.S. chefs on the serious issue of worldwide seafood sustainability.  Did you know that a whopping 20% of all fish caught are thrown overboard as U.S. fishermen pursue higher-priced target fish?  As you might imagine, some of these survive and some do not.

So to address the issue chefs are buying up by-catch fish and dreaming up super delicious dishes.  Right here in the Chesapeake Bay the wild Blue Catfish is considered the greatest environmental threat to our native species, consuming everything in their path.  We applaud Mango Tree’s chefs who are lightly batter-frying the delicate white-fleshed Blue Catfish and serving it up with an Asian-influenced sweet and sour sauce.  Enjoy!  It’s for the environment.

(l-r) Mango Tree's Shrimp Salad, Sweet and Sour Wild Blue Catfish, Lobster Pad Thai at Mango Tree

(l-r) Mango Tree’s Shrimp Salad – Sweet and Sour Wild Blue Catfish – Lobster Pad Thai at Mango Tree

Just in – – brunch service will begin April 4th and continue to be offered both Saturdays and Sundays from 11am till 3pm.

British-born Chef de Cuisine Paul Kennedy has crafted a menu combining traditional English breakfast fare with the traditional Thai flavors of savory, sweet, sour and spice.  Here’s what to expect.

Appetizers include – – Green Papaya Salad, poached shrimp, cherry tomatoes, long beans, chili-lime and a Sriracha cocktail sauce; Street-Style Pork-in-A-Bag, grilled marinated pork skewers with Thai sticky rice and a sweet tamarind sauce. 

Entrées are just as enticing  – – Mango Tree Eggs Benedict, toasted English muffin, poached egg and hash browns, served with a choice of grilled salmon, Kaffir lime hollandaise and sautéed spinach or braised beef cheeks with green curry hollandaise and sautéed spinach or sautéed spinach, with Kaffir lime hollandaise and shallots; Salmon Scrambled Eggs with hash browns and crispy fried bread; Thai-English Breakfast, inspired by the traditional English breakfast Chef Kennedy grew up eating; made with Northern-style Thai sausage, crispy bacon, two wok fried eggs, hash browns, grilled Portobello mushroom, grilled tomato and fried bread; Oven-Baked Blueberry French Toast with whipped cream and blueberry compote; Bacon, Bourbon and Apple Pancakes with hash browns and maple syrup; or Mango Tree Waffles, with a choice of maple syrup, crispy bacon and whipped cream or strawberry and Thai basil compote and whipped cream or fresh fruit in ginger & mint syrup.  Dishes are a la carte.

Fresh fruits at Mango Tree - Coconut Sticky Rice with Coconut Gelato and Ginger Syrup

Fresh fruits at Mango Tree – Coconut Sticky Rice with Coconut Gelato and Ginger Syrup

The new brunch menu continues to reel us in with cocktails such as the Traditional Mimosa; Mary in the Mango Tree with Mekhong and house-made bloody Mary mix; Mango Mimosa with Champagne and fresh mango purée; Lychee Bellini with Champagne and fresh lychees; The Spirited Thai with Mekhong, fresh lime, lychee and pineapple, and the Thai Tea-ni with Thai tea infused vodka with star anise and evaporated milk.

Have I got your attention?  For reservations and information for Mango Tree at CityCenterDC call 202 408-8100 or visit www.MangoTreeDC.com.

The Daily Dish – A Neighborhood Favorite in Silver Spring 

Last month a lavish 5-course luncheon was prepared for twelve of food writers at The Daily Dish.  How I wish you were there as we gobbled up lump crab cakes with remoulade, duck confit on endive with smoked bacon and roast grapes, house-cured gravlax with crème fraiche and wild mushroom soup.  And those were just the appetizers which we washed down with either Blood Orange Margaritas or Elderflower Caipiroskas with a sprig of rosemary.  There is nothing delicate about a horde of foodies with an appetite for good food and a penchant for fine wines that were gratefully served with each course.

Lump crab cakes with remoulade, duck confit on endive with smoked bacon and roast grapes, house-cured gravlax with crème fraiche -- Salad of roast beets on arugula paired perfectly with goat cheese, fennel and oranges

Lump crab cakes with remoulade, duck confit on endive with smoked bacon and roast grapes, house-cured gravlax with crème fraiche — Salad of roast beets on arugula paired perfectly with goat cheese, fennel and oranges

A salad of roast beets on arugula paired perfectly with goat cheese, fennel and oranges comprised our second course followed by purple sweet potato gnocchi and diver scallops with pancetta and a Spanish romesco sauce.  As we segued into beef short ribs with baby carrots and a savory bread pudding of mushrooms, bacon, pea shoots and smoked Gouda.  There were three types of desserts to swoon over, but I can only recall the vegan chocolate cake with berry wine sauce.  What do you expect after seven different wines were poured?

Diver scallops with pancetta and a Spanish romesco sauce -- Beef short ribs with baby carrots

Diver scallops with pancetta and a Spanish romesco sauce — Beef short ribs with baby carrots

I don’t know how the chef and his small staff can handle such volume in the teensy open kitchen, but they have one of the most extensive menus I’ve ever seen.  Their brunch menu reveals dozens of dishes – – ditto for lunch and dinner – – while a hearth oven cranks out pizzas all day and night.  More on that later…

Vegan chocolate cake with berry wine sauce

Vegan chocolate cake with berry wine sauce

With a heartwarming dedication to sustainably raised seafood and a keen eye for purchasing produce and meats from small farms and Amish suppliers, owners, Zena Polin and Jerry Hollinger have developed a reputation for quality comfort food.  Hollinger is the executive chef in their mutual enterprise and Polin handles selecting the wines, over thirty are available by the glass or bottle with a rotating “Reserve” list of special wines.  At our lunch I enjoyed a surprisingly memorable sauvignon blanc 2012 Bodegas Carrau from Uruguay, another from Portugal, two from France, one each from California and Oregon and, I’m happy to say one from Virginia, Nebbiolo Ice Wine from Breaux Vineyards in Purcellville.

Blood Orange Margarita

Blood Orange Margarita

Polin also enjoys dreaming up specialty cocktails.  A particular favorite of mine is Pimm’s Cup.  The perfect summer refresher, we love it for sipping between chukkas at a polo match.  That it is served here, is a wonderment.

Another of the restaurant’s offerings is the Bloody Mary bar, here each drink is concocted according to the guest’s exact specifications.  Choose a vodka and a rim frosting, next add your own juice, tomato or V8, then make it as mild or hot as you like with spices, horseradish and the like, popping in a smoked bacon stirrer or poached shrimp topper.  What a way to brave the day!

Opened 2009 the duo have a faithful neighborhood following.  With dishes changing every night according to Hollinger’s whim and what’s in season, locals and their families often dine here more than once a week.  For those short of time, there’s “Dough to Go”, a kit containing dough, sauce and cheese for making your own pizza.  I took one home, followed the instructions and felt like a pro.

For more info or to make reservations visit www.thedailydish.com.

 A Singularly Smashing Night at the Embassy of Spain

Ambassador Ramon Gil-Casares (center) at the Embassy of Spain's lavish buffet

Ambassador Ramon Gil-Casares (center) at the Embassy of Spain’s lavish buffet

As reported in late March, I planned to attend a supper and talk at the Foxhall Road Embassy of Spain.  After some delectable hors d’oeuvres and wine, Ramon Martinez, Executive Chef of Jose Andres’ noted restaurant, Jaleo, presented an illuminating power point presentation on the evolution of Spanish gastronomy, noting the connections between the two continents and crediting America for green peppers and tomatoes.

He gave credit to Spain for inventing hot chocolate mentioning, “The Americas discovered cacao, but we are the ones that put sugar in it.”  On a more conciliatory note he demurred, “It’s all about collaboration.”

The embassy sets a pretty table - Desserts on the patio at the embassy

The embassy sets a pretty table – Desserts on the patio at the embassy

Ambassador Ramon Gil-Casares then invited the attendees to follow him downstairs where the Embassy’s Executive Chef, Rive Perez, had prepared a spectacular traditional Spanish dinner where tables were set with white linens on a candlelit patio.  If you’ve been following my peregrinations lately you couldn’t be faulted for thinking that Spain has had a firm hand in feeding me every week.  Or so it seems.

A Chance Meeting with the Prime Minister of Ireland 

Prime Minister of Ireland Enda Kenny with Fionnaula Kelly and Daniel O'Connell's manager, Trini Hughes

Prime Minister of Ireland Enda Kenny with Fionnaula Kelly and Daniel O’Connell’s manager, Trini Hughes (center)

After spending a frigid morning covering the British Royals at Mount Vernon the day after St. Patrick’s Day, I met up with a colleague for a late lunch of corned beef and cabbage at Daniel O’Connell’s in Old Town Alexandria, when who should be at the next table of the near-empty restaurant but Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), Enda Kenny and his wife, Fionnuala Kenny.

Jordan Wright with the Prime Minister of Ireland Kenny

Jordan Wright with the Prime Minister of Ireland Kenny

We sent a message through our waiter and the Kennys immediately came to our table.  We had just left the future King of England and ten miles away we were chatting it up with the Irish Prime Minister.  I’m still delirious from it all.

Corned beef and cabbage at Daniel O'Connell's

Corned beef and cabbage at Daniel O’Connell’s

Photo credit: Jordan Wright

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