Nibbles and Sips Around Town – December 26, 2015

Jordan Wright
December 26, 2015
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts

Destination Del Ray for Cozy New Italian Spot – Bethesda Offers Theatre-goers and Cast Members Two Great Dining Options with Silver and Urban Heights – National Geographic Live! Presents “The Science of Delicious” – Zengo Celebrates Its 10th Anniversary with New Menu

Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap

Alexandria locals have been eagerly anticipating the opening of Lena’s, the splashy new Neapolitan-style restaurant recently opened in the Del Ray neighborhood. All eyes have been trained on its build out, with area reports cheering the addition of large outdoor gas heaters, pretty landscaping and blazing fire pit for extended season dining. Situated near the Braddock Metro Station this spiffy spot is already abuzz with biz. A recent visit revealed its successful formula – reasonably priced chef-driven Italian dishes, handmade pasta, and a 4,800-pound wood-fired pizza oven in a large, yet smartly cozy, space. Featuring high ceilings and large windows facing the street, the main dining space and bar still manages to be cozy, even though it can easily accommodate 100 guests. For seasonal dining add another 68 to the spacious patio garden fronting the corner of Braddock Road and Mount Vernon Avenue.

Proud of their Italian heritage, the Yates, a well-known Alexandria family who are behind this effort, have named the restaurant after their late grandmother, Lena, a talented home cook whose ancestors hailed from Avellino and immigrated to our shores at the beginning of the 20th century. Early photographs of the matriarch and the De Gruttola and Forte families line the brick walls, bringing an air of intimacy to the space.

Chef Mauro Mollino of Lena's with one of his Neapolitan wood-fired pizzas

Chef Mauro Mollino of Lena’s with one of his Neapolitan wood-fired pizzas

On board as Executive Chef is Mauro Molino, a 22-year veteran of the restaurant and hospitality industry. Molino is an energetic ball of fire with an infectious smile and an eagerness to inform customers of the nuances of this southern Italian cuisine. Molino, who spent the early part of his culinary career in Torino and later at the historic Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza in Ohio, is a veteran of Washington’s better known restaurants including Rustico Restaurant & Bar, The Hamilton, T.J Stones and Lia’s under Chef/Owner Geoff Tracy.

(L to R) Vegetable antipasto - Kale and Gorgonzola salad with poached pears - Bunt - a Piedmontese chocolate terrine

(L to R) Vegetable antipasto – Kale and Gorgonzola salad with poached pears – Bunt – a Piedmontese chocolate terrine

But it’s Lena’s time-tested recipes that prove the greatest tribute to her family’s Campania heritage – a legacy that is revealed in the restaurant’s menu – from gourmet pizzas, polenta fries, an impressive charcuterie board, sweet and spicy mussels, five types of paninis, and an array of fresh salads. Kale Salad with gorgonzola, poached pears, toasted almonds and buttermilk dressing is my favorite, as is a vegetable antipasto (who knew wood-grilled mushrooms were so irresistible?), grilled calamari and meltingly tender, fist-sized meatballs. Basic tomato “gravy”, as the cooked sauce is called, uses the sweet, lemony type of Roma tomatoes sourced exclusively from Lena’s region of San Marzano.

Desserts are totally unnecessary, but all in the name of research, don’t you know. Try the luscious Piedmontese chocolate terrine, called Bunt, and a Nutella pizza topped with white and dark chocolate chips and extra hazelnuts.

For more information visit

Rooftop Party in Urban Heights

A roof with a view at Urban Heights

A roof with a view at Urban Heights

That Robert Wiedmaier likes to party like a rock star, is no surprise to fans of Villain & Saint where the chef/owner of the popular rhythm-and-blues venue can hang with his like-minded music lovers and fellow biker mates. Lately he’s taken the party to the rooftop of Urban Heights, his other Bethesda hot spot, where a lively scene plays out under a pavilion-tented bar whose moniker is ‘The Lotus Lounge’. Heated for winter comfort, it offers a bird’s eye view of downtown Bethesda. The new restaurant features delectable Philippine-Southeast Asian influenced cuisine.

Urban Heights partiers

Urban Heights partiers

To celebrate the al fresco opening a whole baby pig was roasted in the roof’s open pit. Partiers enjoyed tasty nibbles – Spicy Tuna Tempura Roll, Braised Pork Belly, Bulgogi Steak Sliders, Lumpia – prepared by UH’s Chef Cliff Wharton (formerly of the late Ten Penh).

Island-influenced craft cocktails fired up the festivities while local musician Phil Kominski entertained the crowd with his fierce vocals and hot guitar licks.

Local musician Phil Kominski on the rooftop Lotus Lounge at Urban Heights

Local musician Phil Kominski on the rooftop Lotus Lounge at Urban Heights

Silver – Upscale Brasserie Opens in Bethesda

It’s been a few years since we profiled Ype Von Hengst and his 180-degree lurch from the American style gut-busting dishes of his chain of Silver Diners to the lightened, seasonal, farm-to-table dishes he instituted at all his restaurants. Along with partner Robert Giaimo, the duo has since revolutionized what we think of as diner food to reflect a forward-thinking sensibility more in line with today’s calorie-conscious clientele. In addition to tweaking all aspects of American classic dishes – reducing the amount of salt and sugar and using healthier fats – they present a wealth of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free choices.

The bar at Silver

The bar at Silver

Introducing Silver, a stunning French-inspired, Art Deco-designed restaurant with its black-and-white tiled floors, large banquettes, wood and stainless walls and columns reminiscent of New York’s Chrysler Building.

Tuna tartare with lime cilantro peanut dressing and crispy wontons - Wild caught scallops with feta and lemon garlic sauce

Tuna tartare with lime cilantro peanut dressing and crispy wontons – Wild caught scallops with feta and lemon garlic sauce

Breakfast here starts at 7am and extends till midnight with an all-day brunch to cover the in-between times. The flexitarian menu depends on local farms and suppliers – names familiar to those that shop at farmers’ markets and specialty gourmet stores. The passionate conceptualists are proud of their relationships with Firefly Farms for goat cheese, Parker Farms for produce and Richardson Farms for kale – all based in Maryland. Oysters come from the Chesapeake Bay, Black Angus steaks from nearby ranches. In Pennsylvania eggs come from Amish farmers at Martin’s Eggs, organic chicken from Bell & Evans Farms, blue cheese from Buck’s County and mushrooms from Basciani Farms.  Edwards Virginia Smokehouse, maker of Surryano ham, a dry-cured, hickory-smoked, heritage breed pork that mimics prosciutto, provides the ham.

(L to R) 72 hour short rib with horseradish demi glace, cholula onions, garlic spinach, butternut squash and cauliflower parsnip mash - Chia banana pudding

(L to R) 72 hour short rib with horseradish demi glace, cholula onions, garlic spinach, butternut squash and cauliflower parsnip mash – Chia banana pudding

It’s well nigh impossible to relate even a fraction of the dishes listed on the five distinct menus. I will, however, make mention of the fact that all sodas, fresh-pressed juices and cocktails are made from scratch, teas are organic, and coffee is fair trade certified.

NatGeo Live! Series Taps into “The Science of Delicious”

At National Geographic

At National Geographic

Do your brain or your taste buds interpret what you’re eating? Maybe it’s your DNA. This and other nerdy questions were explained and debated at a lively dinner last month at the organization’s dining space on 17th Street where guests sipped heavenly cocktails paired with hors d’oeuvres – ‘Walking on Water’, a mix of pear and basil tea with Calvados brandy, Walnut bitters and pear eau de vie; and the ‘Dorian Grey’ jasmine mate tea with Irish whiskey, peach eau de vie, salty foam banana cream and mace dust. Todd James, Senior Photo Editor at National Geographic Magazine, moderated the presentation along with Dr. Julie Mennella, Biopsychologist at the Monnell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia where she conducts research on taste, smell and chemosensory irritation.

Together they guided us on a virtual tour to explain recent scientific developments in the biological mechanics of how we taste, why we taste things differently from one another, and how some scientists are trying to make insect larvae taste palatable. Hilarious photos of babies responding to new flavors accompanied some of the photographs. Dr. Mennella explained, “The foods you are eating when pregnant are probably what you are going to feed your child.”

Particularly intriguing was our virtual visit to NOMA, in Denmark. Known as “The World’s Finest Restaurant”, Chef/Owner Rene Redzepi has taken the foraging of Nordic plant life into the realm of haute cuisine. N. B. This should not be confused with your grandma’s dandelion salad. NOMA has three kitchens. The first is what they call the ‘Science Bunker’ where experiments are conducted to determine food’s reaction to an array of scientific applications. Then there’s a development kitchen for conceptualization, and future implementation if all goes well. Lastly, there’s the restaurant kitchen where food is prepared by highly regimented cooks for elegantly plated service in the dining room.

Cocktail progression menu

Cocktail progression menu

Another fascinating virtual visit was to British celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck restaurant to experience a fish course aptly named “Song of the Sea” which is served alongside a large Nautilus shell housing ear buds for listening to the sea.

Our two presenters were joined by Pam Caragol, Executive Producer of “EAT: The Story of Food” for National Geographic Studios/National Geographic Channel; Chef Myo Htun, Co-owner and Chef of Chaplin’s Restaurant, and Micah Wilder and his partner and brother Ari Wilder, Restaurateur and Co-owner of Chaplin’s who catered the event with an Asian inspired menu.

NatGeo Senior Photo Editor, Todd James, describes the "Science Bunker" at NOMA in Denmark

NatGeo Senior Photo Editor, Todd James, describes the “Science Bunker” at NOMA in Denmark

The carefully orchestrated dinner celebrated the Society’s December magazine’s feature story written by David Owen. The story is part of NatGeo’s Future of Food initiative, a special five-year project that seems to show how what we eat makes us who we are.

Zengo Maps Out an Asian Adventure

Zengo Chef de Cuisine Jason Streiff

Zengo Chef de Cuisine Jason Streiff

World-renowned chef, Richard Sandoval, is celebrating his Latin-Asian restaurant Zengo’s 10th anniversary in Penn Quarter by rolling out a new menu based on his recent culinary exploration of Hong Kong, Tokyo and Thailand. Along with Chef de Cuisine Jason Streiff, they have seized on unique and delicious combinations of Asian-Latin flavors to dazzle the intrepid diner with bold, flavor-forward creations. Forewarned: Menu items marked with the Chinese character for new, are available now till the end of January and only available at dinner service after 5pm.

I lost track of how many plates were set in front of us, but there were easily over a dozen. Especially memorable from the Sushi & Crudo Bar was the Thai seafood ceviche and grouper ceviche with uni, leche de tigre, cilantro and sea beans, that crunchy, lemony seaweed that I adore. All of Sandoval’s restaurants make one version or another of ceviche and they are all outstanding.

Pork and foie gras shumai dumplings

Pork and foie gras shumai dumplings

The appetizer and dim sum portion of the menu lists 16 different selections from bulgogi ribeye tacos and pork and foie gras shumai dumplings to Thai chicken empanadas and duck confit-daikon tacos. Slow-cooked pork ribs with roast garlic chipotle glaze and spicy cucumber pickle are sweet and sticky, exactly as it should be.

(L to R) Thai seafood ceviche - Slow cooked pork ribs - Grouper ceviche with sea beans

(L to R) Thai seafood ceviche – Slow cooked pork ribs – Grouper ceviche with sea beans

For a main dish, especially fun for a group, you may want to try the tempura whole fish. Ask what the chef is preparing as it changes daily.

One section of the menu features exclusively wok-cooked dishes inclouding short rib udon noodle with XO, Thai basil and long bean in a drunken noodle broth; bibimbap with pork belly, soft egg, gochujang, pickled vegetables and sticky rice; as well as chili crab “Hong Kong” noodle accompanied by crispy noodles with sugar snap peas, asparagus, egg and spicy curry. An unusual entry is the chili crab “Hong Kong” noodle that adds Maryland blue crab as well as the hard-to-find roe.

Photo credit – Jordan Wright

Nibbles and Sips Around Town for the Holidays

Jordan Wright
December 10, 2015
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts

Dear Santa,

We have been awfully damn nice this year, and we feel we ought to treat ourselves to some comforting foods and a bit of fine dining.  I’m sure you’d agree.  After all, as your self-appointed elves spreading good cheer – and entertainment! – we need to remind ourselves that it is the season of joy.  The following festive spots with their fabulous menus, provide us with charming respites for friends and family to make merry.  We hope you’ll join us before you make your appointed rounds.

Warmest holiday greetings from your friends at Whisk and Quill.

P.S. We could use some bubbly and Mrs. Claus’s Bourbon Balls recipe. Hay is around back.

Blue Duck Tavern at the Park Hyatt

Scones, lemon curd, clotted cream and strawberry preserves and an assortment of heavenly sweets from Pastry Chef David Collier

Scones, lemon curd, clotted cream and strawberry preserves and an assortment of heavenly sweets from Pastry Chef David Collier

For those that prefer serving Christmas dinner at home, Blue Duck Tavern has a terrific plan for dining at home for the holidays.  It features a traditional Christmas ham, along with freshly baked breads, four traditional sides and two seasonal pies.  This classic American feast is for six to eight guests, and is priced at $350 (tax not included).

For getting the party started a charcuterie and cheese board is priced at $95 (tax not included).  This special offering includes a selection of domestic farmstead cheeses and charcuterie items, along with homemade mustard, seasonal preserves, spiced nuts, and crispy Lavash crackers.  Plated by Park Hyatt Washington’s Cheese Specialist, Sophie Slesinger, it comes on a handcrafted wooden platter.  Christmas dinner will be available for pick-up at the Pastry Pantry on December 24th from 1pm to 5 pm, or on December 25th from 11am. to 2pm.  Orders must be placed by December 17th at 5pm. To place an order, call 202 419.6775 or visit and specify the date and time of pick-up.

Blue Duck also provides a perfect spot for tea.  Why? Because in addition to scrumptious savories and jams from Executive Chef Franck Loquet and Chef de Cuisine Brad Deboy – and Pastry Chef David Collier’s to-die-for sweets – the restaurant has their very own tea specialist, Christian Eck, who doubles as the restaurant’s sommelier.  Certified through the Court of Master Sommeliers, Eck knows not only wines but high quality teas and stands at the ready to share his vast knowledge.

Lobster BLT at Blue Duck Tavern

Lobster BLT at Blue Duck Tavern

Last week we enjoyed a lavish savory selection of Lobster BLT on brioche, Oysters on the half shell with celery relish, Chicken Salad wrapped in a cabbage leaf and devilled eggs.   On the sweet side were a rainbow of tender macarons; Chocolate Caramel Tart topped with sea salt; Berry Tart; decadently rich Financier Cake; Cranberry Raisin scones with clotted cream, strawberry jam and lemon curd; and fabulous Nutella Eclairs.

For our tasting, Eck cheerfully poured from glass teapots with warming trivets as we sampled Gyohuro, a Japanese green tea and one of the most exclusive teas on the market, followed by a cave-aged, vintage Pu-Erh tea harvested from the ancient trees of Yunan, China.  Naturally fermented this 16-year old tea is renowned for its health benefits.  And lastly we tried the lightest tea, Mallorcan Melon, a delicate tisane grown in a micro-climate of cold days and warm nights.

“The Tea Table”, as it is called, it is served Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 2:30pm to 4:30pm.  At 1201 24th St., NW, Washington, DC 20037.

701 Restaurant

Dining Room at 701

Dining Room at 701

Last month’s dinner at 701, in its recently renovated digs, convinced me that newly installed Executive Chef Ben Lambert is up to the challenge of dazzling diners with a mouth-watering three-course feast for Christmas Day revelers.  Guests can order from the á la carte menu, as per usual, but who wouldn’t want to try these seasonal specialties? Choose from such starters as Chestnut Soup with duck confit and foie gras powder; Beets with green apple, pecans and pomegranate vinaigrette; Crab Beignets with frisée and a carrot romesco sauce; and Beef Carpaccio with broccoli, fried baguette, and cured egg yolk vinaigrette.  Main courses prove equally as inspired – Suckling Pig with potato polenta, plum jam and piperade; Monkfish with salsify, oyster emulsion and lemon thyme; Cauliflower Shawarma with hummus, tomato jam and lavosh, or the unusually named, Green Circle Chicken with parsnip purée, Brussels sprouts and chermoula.

This over-the-top dinner concludes with a choice of Crème Brûlée with pumpkin ganache and gingerbread ice cream; Butterscotch Pudding with apple confit, biscotti and pomegranates; PB&J, slice of peanut butter cheese cake with concord grape ice cream, or Chocolate Crémeux with passion fruit ganache, cocoa meringue and vanilla ice cream.  Live jazz throughout the evening.  At 701 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004.  For reservations call 202 393.0701 or visit

Central Michel Richard 

Buche de Noel

Buche de Noel

A deliciously craveable collection of all your French Christmas favorites are at this contemporary American bistro with a French influence – snowmen meringues, Bûche de Noel, winter black truffles from France and other specialties for holiday celebrations. Be sure to try one of Wine Director Brian Zipin’s wonderful winter cocktails – Winter Sangria made with Domaine Dupable Beaujolais, St Germain elderflower, brandy, grapefruit juice, fresh apples and oranges and freshly grated nutmeg; Spiced Maple Manhattan, a balance of Eagle Rare 10-year old bourbon, Lucano Amaro, Dolin Sweet vermouth, spiced maple syrup and Peychaud’s Bitters served over block ice with brandied cherries; or the suggestive Blood, Rye & Sand made with Sonoma County Rye, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, Cherry Herring and blood orange juice, with orange peel.  Pére Noël would approve!  The sophisticatedly casual cuisine by Richard, winner of the James Beard Foundation’s “Best New Restaurant” award, offers distinctive menus for holiday office lunch parties and family gatherings, as well as pre-fixe dining before or after the theatre. Open on Christmas Eve for lunch and dinner, closed on Christmas Day, and re-opening for dinner December 26th.  At 1001 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004.  For reservations and information call 202 626.0015 or visit

Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca

Chef Jake Addeo

Chef Jake Addeo

At Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca Executive Chef Jake Addeo has a traditional Feast of Seven Fishes five-course tasting menu planned.  Available from 5pm – 9:30pm on Christmas Eve the dinner will feature fish and pasta.  Highlights include Nantucket Bay Scallops Crudo with pomegranate seeds, mint, caramelized lime and olio verde; Raviolo with Maine lobster, burrata, cherry tomatoes and tarragon butter; Spaghetti Neri, squid ink spaghetti with razor clam, guanciale, pickled chili peppers and ‘aglio e olio’, as well as Gamberoni, grilled giant prawn, roasted puntarella, preserved lemon and wild sea urchin butter.  To cap it off there is Torta, a warm molasses cake, with crystalized ginger and candied pecans, served with brown butter gelato.  At 1100 New York Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20005.  Valet parking is available for $8.  For reservations call 202 216.9550 or visit

L’Hommage Bistro Français

L'Hommage Bistro Francais

L’Hommage Bistro Francais

New to the bustling Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood, L’Hommage Bistro Français, offers diners a four-course tasting menu on Christmas Eve from 5pm to 10pm.  This quintessentially French spot is reminiscent of the iconic Parisian brasserie, La Coupole, and is cheaper than a flight on Air France.  Classic French dishes prepared by Executive Chef Josh Laban Perkins incorporate traditional cooking techniques while paying tribute to the true flavors of French cuisine.  The special menu begins with a Plat de Tartine that includes torchon de foie gras served on brioche; fig-cured duck served on raisin walnut baguette and duck rillettes, served on palladin bread.  It is followed by a Warm Poached Pear Salad with smoked lardon, Roquefort société, candied Basque walnuts and Dijon vinaigrette.  The main course is Canard Roti et Confit, a chestnut honey roasted duck breast with confit leg, roasted chestnuts and cherries.  A selection of petite pastries prepared by Pastry Chef Bouchaib ‘BiBi’ Benahmida concludes this Francophile’s dream.  At 450 K Street, NW, 20001.  For reservations, and information about hosting a private party, call 202 791.0916 or visit


Chef Nick Stefanelli

Chef Nick Stefanelli

For the first time, Nick Stefanelli will bring Italian tradition to Masseria on Christmas Eve and share his innovative take on the culinary customs with Feast of the Seven Fishes at Masseria on Thursday, December 24th when he opens the doors to guests for a one-night-only Italian holiday feast. The set-menu includes dishes such as: Linguine al Farouk, a fanciful curried pasta dish with saffron, ginger, and mixed seafood (lobster, calamari, clams, and mussels); Poached Cod with tomatoes, onions, and potatoes; and Fritto Misto of fried prawns, calamari, cauliflower, oysters, and lemon.  The sweet finish will offer Delizia al Limone, a limoncello sponge cake with lemon Bavarian cream.  In the season of giving, Nick will send every guest home with a festive home made panettone.  At 1340 4th Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002.  For reservations call Masseria at 202 608.1330.


Acadiana Interior - Photo credit: Scott Suchman

Acadiana Interior – Photo credit: Scott Suchman

Acadiana prepares a special “Christmas Eve with a Cajun Taste” dinner on December 24th.  The four-course feast will feature seasonal favorites such as Fried Turkey, Rack of Lamb as well as the best coastal cuisine of New Orleans.  In true Louisiana fashion, the dinner will begin with a Lagniappe of Seafood Gumbo, then guests will have an array of appetizers from which to choose such as Lobster Étouffée, Classic Turtle Soup, or Duck Jambalaya.  Entree selections range from New Orleans Style Barbecue Shrimp, to the “Grillades & Grits”. Dessert choices include Spiced Pumpkin Crème Brûlée, Cinnamon-Raisin Bread Pudding or Pecan Tart.  Guests also have a choice of a la carte sides.  For reservations and more information call 202 408.8848 or visit

Met Bethesda

Chef de Cuisine Andrew Kerne

Chef de Cuisine Andrew Kerne

If you’re doing your shopping at the Westfield Montgomery Mall, you may want to take a break at the Met Bethesda where Chef de Cuisine Andrew Kerne is offering two festive specials in addition to the á la carte menu.  Known for its martinis on tap, this fast casual spot plans Salt Crusted Red Snapper with herb-scented roasted baby potatoes and broccolini as well as a holiday cocktail of Limoncello Pomegranate Prosecco.  Only on December 11th-12th and 18th-19th during lunch and dinner service.  At 7101 Democracy Blvd., Bethesda, MD, 20817.  For reservations or additional information, call 301 767.1900 or visit

1789 Restaurant

Executive Chef Samuel Kim - Photo Credit:1789 Restaurant

Executive Chef Samuel Kim – Photo Credit:1789 Restaurant

No place in town says Georgetown tony chic than the historic Federal period townhouse at 1789.  Decked out with wreaths, antique toys and garlands for the Christmas holidays, it is the penultimate spot for an old-fashioned holiday experience with contemporary cuisine.  Executive Chef Samuel Kim has a special menu planned in addition to a seasonal á la carte menu for Christmas Eve.  Swoon-worthy dishes include Foie Gras Torchon with orange marmalade, brioche, Medjool dates, pickled celery and hazelnuts; Coddled Egg with lobster, oyster mushrooms, fennel and uni foam; Bucatini with Nantucket Bay scallops, Meyer lemons, fried capers and parsley; Rack of Lamb with eggplant caviar, Picholine olives, chickpea panisse, roasted tomatoes and parsley oil; Roast Prime Rib with pearl onion confit, glazed haricot verts, salt-baked new potatoes, horseradish cream and au jus; as well as Maine Lobster with root vegetable hash, rainbow Swiss chard and truffle butter sauce.  The Washington Men’s Camerata will be caroling in the restaurant nightly between 7pm and 9 pm from December 13th through Christmas Eve.  At 1226 36th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007. For reservations, call 202 965.1789 or visit

Bourbon Steak

Dining Room

Dining Room

On Christmas Day and Christmas Eve, Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC will be open for dinner only offering its full menu, à la carte, with the addition of a few specials by Executive Chef Joe Palma to include appetizers such as the Lobster Bisque with Warm Lobster Celeriac Salad and lobster roe emulsion (tack on an extra charge for Perigord truffles); and the Heirloom Rye Gnocchi with Braised Lamb Leg in red wine.  Special entrée selections include Seared Dorade ‘Veta la Palma’ with bouillabaisse, chorizo powder and braised fennel; or the 22-ounce Porterhouse Steak with maître d’ butter and whipped Gruyère potato; available both nights.  The team of sommeliers, lead by Head Sommelier Julian Mayor, will provide wine recommendations from its astonishingly diverse selection of 500 wines.  At 2800 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20007.  For reservations and information call Bourbon Steak at 202 944.2026 or visit

Bayou Bakery

Holiday Spiced Pecans -- Creole Cringle Cake

Holiday Spiced Pecans — Creole Cringle Cake

David Guas penultimate Louisiana-style restaurant has your holiday all wrapped up to go.  With Creole Cringle Cakes (orders must be placed 48-hours prior to pick-up).   This year he stocks his larder, also known as the “Candy Corner” with Southern sweets, treats and holiday candies.  These yummy stocking stuffers are tied up in ribbon and available for purchase daily starting Wednesday, December 10th.  Try the Candied Creole Pecans; a Trinity of Pralines in traditional, chocolate, chicory coffee; Heavenly Hash Fudge with pecans and marshmallows; or decadent Peppermint Bark made with 70% bittersweet Valrhona chocolate.  A holiday catering menu should thrill any host or hostess looking for party bites, sides and pies.  At Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery in Arlington, Virginia 1515 North Courthouse Road, Arlington, VA 22201.


Dining Room

Dining Room

On Christmas Eve, Marcel’s, Chef Robert Wiedmaier’s haute French Belgian flagship restaurant in Washington, DC, will be open serving its regular tasting menu and featuring signature dishes from Boudin Blanc with celeryroot puree, chanterelle mushrooms, foie gras poultry jus and truffle; and Seared Rare Ahi Tuna with pickled ginger, tobiko and ponzu gel.  At 2401 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20037.  For reservations call 202 296.1166 or visit

Nibbles and Sips Around Town – October 6, 2015

Jordan Wright
October 6, 2015
Special to DC Metro Theater Arts

The Hay Adams Teleports a Transylvanian Experience for the Ultimate in Halloween Luxury and A Kids Cultural Extravaganza Comes to Town 

Hay Adams Hotel - Washington, DC

Hay Adams Hotel – Washington, DC

Swap your crypt for the ultimate in All Hallows Eve luxury with a night or two at the Hay Adams, which transforms itself, and its staff, for the spook fest.  This year “The Transylvania Suite” awaits those who like their haunting to be in the posh category.  Designer Barbara Hamilton of the Ociana Group will fiendishly decorate the swank suite, complete with all the trappings of a gentrified haunted house.

Those brave enough to take the plunge will be treated to a spirited welcome amenity from Pastry Chef Josh Short, tricked out with blood-curdling cocktails and delivered to the Halloween lair where a frighteningly outfitted butler will escort you to the skull-adorned suite.  There you’ll find a gift collection of old and new horror film DVDs, along with more eye-popping surprises.

A three-course dinner paired with wines and a spidery-inspired dessert served in the suite’s dining room, awaits.  Before retiring to your canopy bed embellished with cobwebs, a diabolically concocted turn-down surprise will be on your embroidered custom-designed Italian linen pillows.  The following morning awake to a lavish breakfast in bed highlighted by a spicy “Bloody Scary” to complete the morning feast.

This luxurious suite overlooks Lafayette Park and the White House, setting the stage for a wickedly decadent evening.  For those addicted to this spooky holiday, The Hay-Adams Halloween package affords a unique chance to enjoy the legendary elegance of this historic hotel while experiencing a number of creative twists all evening.  This Halloween experience is priced at $2,995 per night (excluding tax and gratuity).  The suite is available Friday, October 30th and Saturday, the 31st. For reservations and more information call 202 638.6600 or visit their website at 

Kids Euro Festival Comes to Metro DC 

KEF Production Art

KEF Production Art

Over two dozen embassies will be participating in the Kids Euro Festival in the DC Metro area between October 24th and November 8thAnd more than 125 events are free! All these family-friendly European-themed cultural events feature professional performance artists at school performances and in partner venues, film screenings, and library activities, as well as artist workshops, performances for hospitalized children.  There will be a full day of activities for children with special needs, and professional development opportunities for teachers. This unique collaboration between the European Union and the United States hopes to transform the capital region into an action-packed cultural adventure for young people, their families, and their teachers.

Calling it “A Trip to Europe Without a Passport” this exciting festival, now in its 8th year, is the largest children’s performing arts festival of its kind in America.  Designed for children ages two through twelve and their families, Kids Euro Festival unites the 28 embassies of the European Union (EU) and more than 20 local and national cultural institutions.

“The festival continues to offer children and their families a unique opportunity to experience some of Europe’s best performers right here in Washington, D.C.,” said David O’Sullivan, Ambassador of the European Union to the United States. “As a joint cultural diplomacy initiative of the European Union embassies in the nation’s capital, it is also a wonderful celebration of European cultural diversity. It is my hope that every child and parent that participates in this Festival will have a lasting fond memory of their European cultural experience.”


Susan Carmel Lehrman, the Vice-President of the European-American Cultural Foundation (E-ACF), said, “Culture is a powerful force for bringing together people, families, and nations. As the organizer of Kids Euro Festival, the E-ACF knows that the arts are more than just entertainment — they are a way to share cultures, create understanding, and unite people from around the world.”

Expect to see theater, puppets, music, magic, dance, films, stories, and more to stimulate creative imaginations and invite artistic exploration.

Participating in Kids Euro Festival are the Embassies of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, The Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Partners and venues include the American Film Institute; Alliance Française DC; Capital Fringe; Children’s Inn at NIH; DC Arts & Humanities Education Collaborative; DC Public Library System; District of Columbia Public Schools; Dupont Festival; GALA Hispanic Theatre; Harmony Hall/Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission; Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital; Hillwood Estate Museum & Gardens; Imagination Stage; KEEN Greater DC; John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; KID Museum at Davis Library; Library of Congress; Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center; National Gallery of Art; Prince George’s County Center for Visual and Performing Arts; Shakespeare Theatre Company; Sitar Arts Center; Strathmore; and Washington Performing Arts.

Kids Euro Festival is made possible by the generous support of Susan Carmel Lehrman, TV5 USA, Dr. Gregory A. and JaLynn Prince/Madison House Autism Foundation, Holiday Inn Georgetown, and Washington Parent Magazine, and the assistance of the European-American Cultural Foundation (E-ACF) in cooperation with the Delegation of the European Union to the United States.

While all of the performances are free, some require reservations, which can be made at the Kids Euro Festival website:

Nibbles and Sips Around Town – October 2, 2015

Jordan Wright
October 2, 2015 

Ankara in Dupont Circle; Ambar at Barracks Row; Bibiana Welcomes a New Chef; Mason Social Pleases the Southern Palate 

Ankara is the New Turk on the Block 

(left-to-right) The patio at Ankara - How they make your Turkish tea

(left-to-right) The patio at Ankara – How they make your Turkish tea

Sorry to report we missed out on September’s Turkish Heritage Month.  Maybe you did too.  No need to fret.  Here’s where you can get your fix.  Ankara is located on a quiet block in the center of DC’s upscale Golden Triangle neighborhood.  It’s a family-run restaurant with a pretty patio for dining al fresco.  Opened this spring by the Aslanturk family who hail from Ankara, it celebrates food from the heart of Turkey – both traditional and nicely tweaked.

(left-to-right) Havuc Tarama - a spread of carrots, yoghurt and garlic - Kopoglu - sautéed eggplant with yoghurt garlic sauce

(left-to-right) Havuc Tarama – a spread of carrots, yoghurt and garlic – Kopoglu – sautéed eggplant with yoghurt garlic sauce

There are plenty of cold and hot mezzes to choose from like Sigara Borgei (feta and herbs folded into crispy phyllo), Karides Guvec (baked shrimp in tomato and garlic sauce) and Midye Tavasi (fried mussels in walnut tarator sauce).  Kebabs of all description are rendered smoky from the wood-fired oven as are the salmon and branzino, both delicately rendered.  Be sure to try the pide – a Turkish flatbread version of pizza.

(left-to-right) Icli Kofte and Boregi stuffed with feta cheese and herbs - Ali Nazik - slow-cooked lamb on smoked puréed eggplant. A specialty of the Gaziantep region.

(left-to-right) Icli Kofte and Boregi stuffed with feta cheese and herbs – Ali Nazik – slow-cooked lamb on smoked puréed eggplant. A specialty of the Gaziantep region.

A newly launched brunch is lavish and delicious in the tradition of kahvalti – Turkish breakbast.  To begin there is a broad selection of savory and sweet items including honey, cheeses, olives, fresh fruit jams, labne, and more with lamb stuffed flatbreads and salads.  Try the portakal salatasi – a refreshing salad with oranges, mint, pomegranate and red onions.  Dessert doesn’t disappoint either.   Don’t miss the best baklava in town or, on a lighter note, apricots stuffed with crème and sprinkled with pistachios.  Afiyet olsun! 

Ankara is at 1320 19th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036.

Ambar Redux 

Ambar is not a hot spot for romantic dining.  Rather it’s a gather-round-the-table with friends and family kind of place – best for eating in a group of no less than four.  All the better to try the many flavors of the region, which is the way they eat at home – at least that’s what Executive Chef Ivan Zivkovic would like you to know.

Rustic meets contemporary at Ambar

Rustic meets contemporary at Ambar

There is so much to love about this Barracks Row restaurant with its Balkan food both hearty and grandma-earthy as well as its nicely chosen Bulgarian wines.  While on a trip to the area in CNN’s No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain proclaimed the Bibich R6 Riserva was his favorite wine there.  The peppery zin-style wine is on the menu here along with a selection of the country’s sought after fruit-based rakias whose origins date back to the XI century.

(left-to-right) A selection of Balkan spreads - Charcuterie platter of housemade meats, cheeses and pickled vegetables - Signature dessert - Forest Gnocchi

(left-to-right) A selection of Balkan spreads – Charcuterie platter of housemade meats, cheeses and pickled vegetables – Signature dessert – Forest Gnocchi

Be sure to order a basket of the knockout housemade breads called somun (the fried sourdough is heavenly) with a selection of spreads.  You can’t go wrong with any one of them – from the familiar hummus and ajvar (red pepper and eggplant spread) to the lesser known smoked trout and urnebes (made with aged cow’s cheese, ajvar and chili flakes).  To die for!  We particularly loved a salad of organic cabbage, carrot, radish and red cabbage called Fresh From the Garden and all of the housemade sausages.

A great way to experience all Ambar has to offer, go for The Unlimited Brunch or Bottomless Balkan dinner.

The Changing of the Guard at Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca 

Recent hire, Executive Chef Jake Addeo, is putting his imprimateur on Bibiana’s menu.  With a clear vision of lightening up its authentic Italian fare.  A three-course dinner he created reflected summer’s bounty and showed the direction he intends to take the restaurant in future.

Bibiana's Executive Chef Jake Addeo

Bibiana’s Executive Chef Jake Addeo

Celebrating its six years in Penn Quarter, the stunning restaurant has some new fall offerings during Happy Hour – especially its bargain priced cocktails and wines priced a $7.01, and bar snacks in the sleek lounge.

(left-to-right) Fluke crudo with pickled watermelon rind and pink peppercorns - Sockeye Salmon with salmon skin cracklings.

(left-to-right) Fluke crudo with pickled watermelon rind and pink peppercorns – Sockeye Salmon with salmon skin cracklings.

Try the Cure Royale, made with Prosecco, Lillet Blanc and blackberry liqueur; Old Fashioned made with McKenna 10-year old bourbon and Angostura bitters, and the Moscow Mule made with Sobieski vodka, ginger beer and lime.  Look for a la carte bar snacks such as the Carrot Funnel Cake with Stracchino cheese and gooseberries; Calamari with charred poblano remoulade and smoked paprika; Sesame Hummus with miso, black sesame and grilled pita bread, and Duck Confit Steam Buns with cherry puree and butternut squash.

Mason Social is a Welcome Addition to Old Town Alexandria 

Earlier this year a nifty restaurant opened in a derelict old spot in the Parker-Gray neighborhood just off the hubbub of King Street.  And local childhood pals Chad and his brother Justin Sparrow (Chad’s the partner with the culinary school education), Larry Watson and Teddy Kim have given the place an air of timeless charm.

Old brick walls, decorated with vintage photographs of the city’s 19th century Belle Pre Bottling Company, blend with wood tables and metal chairs in a spare but cozy ambiance.  Mason jar lights dangle from plumbing pipes and a large mural features scenes of the factory that once sat across the street.

Joseph Lennon is the Executive Chef of this Southern influenced menu.  Lennon has worked at the nearby Vermillion under Anthony Chittum, Urbana under noted chef John Critchley, and most recently at the Four Seasons Hotel’s Bourbon Steak.  Though it fancies itself ‘Modern American’, a term much slung around to describe a mélange of comfort foods, there is a firm nod to the South – as in B&B’s Louisiana BBQ chicken, fried green tomatoes and braised kale.  Beef marrow hamburgers made with beef sourced from from Roseda Farms, share the menu with more refined offerings at dinner.

(left-to-right) Dinosaur Kale Salad with tatsoi, country bacon, roasted tomato and feta - Lobster Chowder - Pork Belly and cabbage slaw

(left-to-right) Dinosaur Kale Salad with tatsoi, country bacon, roasted tomato and feta – Lobster Chowder – Pork Belly and cabbage slaw

Tony Burke oversees the beverage program and it is ambitious.  His original cocktails and bespoke punches help fuel the bar’s popularity. Try the Brose Punch made with bourbon, blueberry black tea and, mint and lemon.  Local breweries like Dogfish of Delaware, Duclaw and Flying Dog of Baltimore, and Fair Winds of Lorton, VA are represented and rotated by season along with Alexandria’s Port City beers.  Craft cocktails are seasonal too.

Photo credit – Jordan Wright

Nibbles and Sips Around Town – September 2015

Jordan Wright
September 2015 

Falling in Love with Peru All Over Again: Seven Signs the Culinary Trend is Here to Stay with Ocopa, the Peruvian Brothers and China Chilcano – Et Voila! Hides in Plain Sight – Elizabeth’s Gone Raw: Elegant Vegan Dining – Mosaic District Adds Gourmet-To-Go Spot with Mom & Pop’s – Blackwall Hitch Sails Into Old Town 

Follow the Signs to Peru 

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Peru is floating around in the ethosphere of my mind. And though it’s been a dog’s age (use your seven times multiplication tables here) since I have visited, I still have haunting memories of its power and mystique.  The lure for many seekers is the cosmic center of Machu Picchu, and it was for me too.  So in 1972 I took the train from Cuzco to the summit where I became inexplicably drawn to its highest peak, Mt. Huayna Picchu.  This craggy peak, seen in the distance of most postcard images of Machu Picchu, lured me like a siren and I scrambled along on a foot-wide path to get to the top – a mission better undertaken by a seasoned mountain climber or sure-footed llama.  When the fog closed in and barely three feet in front of me was visible, I tried to turn back.  Suffice it to say, I am here to tell the tale.  The rest is forgettable as there were a handful of local leaves involved in this ridiculous stunt.

Back in Lima I had a more memorable experience at a restaurant, then notable as one of the world’s finest.  I doubt it’s there now.  This was the early 70’s.  I want to say it was The Golden Door, in Spanish of course, but it’s been too long and I was a college student crisscrossing South America with my mother.

The restaurant was housed in a grand Colonial-era building and boasted a lavishly appointed dining room.  Gentlemen arrived in three-piece suits and ladies sported silk dresses and matching hats some even wore kid gloves.  Tables were set with amber-hued goblets and linens were the color of summer wheat.  Three waiters attended each table and dishes arrived under silver domes.  I remember vividly the sunlight pouring in from heavily draped Palladian windows and the sense that my mother was fulfilling a dream in this elegant watering hole.

From the ethereal to the earthly, we left the capitol and the leaf vendors and flew to Iquitos, a dirty town that skirts the headwaters of the Amazon.  Along with a trio of journalists from Paris-Match we climbed aboard a palm-thatched ferry that churned up mud as we chugged along the river as gasoline fumes wafted up from a rickety motor.  After awhile a small dock came into view and we continued our journey via a series of dugout canoes crossing small streams and hiking overland on slippery, vine-draped islets.  It was the rainy season and invisible, stinging insects slowed our progress (I am purposefully leaving out all talk of snakes).

After several hours we reached a cluster of mud huts and a local tribe with ink black hair and broad coffee-colored faces, painted bright red from the juice of local berries, came out of the brush to greet us.  A few tribal dances were performed and gifts were exchanged.  Nowadays these encounters are well organized for tourists, but I imagine the bugs and mud still prevail.  For me, it was an early and fascinating introduction to Peru’s culture and cuisine.

Here’s why I feel the compass needle is currently pointing toward Peru.

Peruvian artisans at the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival

Peruvian artisans at the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival

  1. In a break from past programs that featured several countries and select U. S. states, this year the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival chose a single country – Peru – and featured its customs, cuisine, dance and indigenous culture.
  2. The National Museum of the American Indian has opened the intriguing “The Great Inka Road” exhibition. See June’s column for more info.

    Peruvian Ambassador Luis Miguel Castilla introduces the fashion designers on the catwalk - The latest fashions are presented at the Peruvian Embassy - The crush at the Peruvian Embassy's bash

    Peruvian Ambassador Luis Miguel Castilla introduces the fashion designers on the catwalk – The latest fashions are presented at the Peruvian Embassy – The crush at the Peruvian Embassy’s bash

  3. A few days before the Folk Life Festival kicked off, Peruvian Ambassador Luis Miguel Castilla threw a posh party at the residence featuring Peru’s internationally known fashion designers, complete with catwalk, DJ and unique creations from the country’s youngest designers, students at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology.

Delicious Peruvian cuisine and cocktails pleased the guests – – traditional asado from Del Campo, snacks from the Peruvian Brothers, pisco cocktails made from La Diablada pisco from Machu Pisco, tejas and chocotejas from Helena Chocolatier, tacos from Taco Bamba; and delectable seviches and potato dishes from P.A.C.H.A., the Peruvian American Chefs Association.  Tidbit: There are over 3,800 types of potatoes grown in Peru.

Chef Miguel Garcia of the Peruvian American Chefs Association - Gorgeous nibbles from P.A.C.H.A.

Chef Miguel Garcia of the Peruvian American Chefs Association – Gorgeous nibbles from P.A.C.H.A.

  1. Recently we embarked on a six-course journey into the tastes of Peru at Ocopa in DC where Lima-born chef Carlos Delgado pairs pisco-centric cocktails and South American wines to each course. Delgado, who has cooked at Boveda and The Caucus Room Brasserie, prepares the dishes in full view of the countertop stools for a riveting evening of food and entertainment.
(left to right) Ocopa's Shigoku oyster with leche de tigre espuma - Carrots with kiwicha - Salmon tiradito

(left to right) Ocopa’s Shigoku oyster with leche de tigre espuma – Carrots with kiwicha – Salmon tiradito

Delgado, who sports a colorful tattoo of asparagus on his forearm (he says it reminds him that all asparagus grown in Peru is exported, and so is he), loves the informality of his tasting nights, and he encourages questions about his dishes and the unusual chifa ingredients which are a blend of Chinese and Peruvian cuisines.

Ocopa Chef/Owner Carlos Delgado

Ocopa Chef/Owner Carlos Delgado

We watch as he employs a wide range of techniques, from foams and slow braising to the char of a fiery, coal-fired grill.  And when the menu lists ingredients like yuzu, leche de tigre, rocoto, kiwicha, huacho and olluquito, there are bound to be questions, not least of all the meaning of the restaurant’s name.  We ask.  Ocopa is a traditional sauce prepared with milk, peppers and black mint.

(left to right) Smoked Rabbit - Squash Blossom with salchicha de huacho with squash and corn cake - Lobster chifera with mushroom wonton

(left to right) Smoked Rabbit – Squash Blossom with salchicha de huacho with squash and corn cake – Lobster chifera with mushroom wonton

After dinner there’s an all-weather patio with retractable roof and a 12-seat tiki bar in back.  It’s the closest you’ll feel to sitting in a street bar in Lima.

Ocopa's back room

Ocopa’s back room

Be sure to try one of his Peruvian ice creams.  Delgado is one of the masterminds behind the CreamCycle gourmet ice cream sandwich bicycles.  Ocopa is at 1324 H Street, NE, Washington, DC.  For information about the tasting nights and the Saturday and Sunday brunch menus visit

Andean Quinoa

Andean Quinoa

  1. Most quinoa is grown in the Andes Mountains of Peru and quinoa is being incorporated into everything from cereal to frozen foods. The United Nations named 2013 the Year of Quinoa.  NASA plans to take the super-food into space and global import has increased 18-fold in the past decade.
  2. Earlier this year über chef, José Andrés, opened China Chilcano a restaurant that also embraces chifa, the mix of Cantonese and Peruvian ingredients that form the cuisine of both cultures including Japanese and Criollo flavors.

    Stuffed Avocado from the Peruvian Brothers

    Stuffed Avocado from the Peruvian Brothers

  3. Launched in 2013 the Peruvian Brothers Food Truck, created by Giuseppe Lanzone and Mario Lanzone, has been voted “Best Food Truck” by many local publications and they were the featured food at the Folk Life Festival. But you don’t need to go by me – the lines snake around the block every day.  Follow their locations on Twitter @PeruBrothers.Stuffed Avocado from the Peruvian Brothers

I rest my case…

Et Voila! – A Neighborhood Favorite 

The friendly dining room at Et Voila!

The friendly dining room at Et Voila!

Stroll along a tree-lined street in the Palisades neighborhood to a cluster of outdoor umbrellas to arrive at Et Voila! – – a neighborhood staple of Belgian French bistro fare that has been providing Francophiles with moules, steak frites, foie gras and a distinguished selection of wines, Belgian beers and aperitifs.

As tiny as it is, the MacArthur Boulevard restaurant has its own Pastry Chef, Alex Malaise, who brings whimsy to the ever-evolving dessert menu.  Recently I enjoyed his Pineapple Shortcake – a marvel of orange blossom syrup-soaked brioche swooped with orange blossom crème diplomate.  Gilding the lily was a foam of advocaat liqueur, a single tuile and house made vanilla ice cream.  Malaise also takes on Oeufs a la Neige, commonly known as Floating Island, a complex French dessert involving soft meringues atop crème Anglaise.  Drizzled with melted caramel sauce it’s a labor-intensive treat my Danish grandmother made for special occasions.

Pineapple dessert at Et Voila!

(left to right) Moules Frites at Et Voila! – Steak Frites – Pineapple dessert

This summer he has turned his attention to popsicles made with fresh fruit and juices.  Although flavors fluctuate with the season, some of the earlier choices have been Raspberry & Blueberry with sorbet almond milk and popping candy (remember Pop Rocks?), Pineapple & Coconut with passion fruit glaze and shredded coconut, and Chocolate Nutella with crushed hazelnut from the Piemonte region.  Stroll in and try one.

Raw Food Dining is Decidedly Upscale at Elizabeth’s 

Climb the broad steps of this stunning L Street townhouse, smack dab in the middle of downtown DC, and you enter a realm of calm and elegance – – a world where the service is superb, the décor as chic as Marjorie Merriwether Post’s Hillwood, and the food is raw and vegan.  Phil Heyser, a certified sommelier oversees the impressive wine and cocktail program which includes dreaming up delicious concoctions of raw juices mixed with fine spirits.

I came upon the place a few weeks earlier at a press luncheon for the Viceroy Bali, an exclusive Thai resort hotel and spa overlooking the Valley of Kings in central Bali.  The hotel had sent its Executive Chef Nic Vanderbeeken to showcase his exotic cuisine to a few select journalists with a four-course meal that began with the country’s national dish, Sop Bobor, a soup of spinach and young coconut and ended with a parfait made with the native calamansi fruit.

Yellow Watermelon Soup at Elizabeth's Gone Raw Friday dinners

Yellow Watermelon Soup at Elizabeth’s Gone Raw Friday dinners

The dining room, is a vast two-level space adorned with large porcelain vases set in niches, old tapestries, oil portraits and gold ormolu mirrors lit with bronze sconces and crystal chandeliers.  A heavenly midnight blue ceiling contrasts with salmon-hued walls to cast a romantic glow over the entire room.  Start with cocktails at the onyx bar on the first floor.

Elizabeth's onyx bar - dining room

Elizabeth’s onyx bar – dining room

On Friday evenings the bespoke room converts into a reservations-only restaurant.  Owner and caterer, Elizabeth Petty of The Catering Company of Washington is passionate about organic, particularly raw-vegan –  – a concept that got a lot of traction from the late chef Charlie Trotter in his 2003 cookbook, Raw.  Admittedly the concept doesn’t appeal to everyone (I’d prefer to see carpaccio and seviche included in a raw menu), but the delicate and very creative handling of the ingredients here is inspiring.  Here’s the menu from the evening I dined there.  Note Heyser’s distinguished wine pairings.

AMUSE – Parsnip & Chamomile Flan – rosemary crisp

2014 Alphonse Mellot “La Moussiére” Rose, Sancerre, France

STARTER – Yellow Watermelon Soup – French vanilla butter pear, cashew yogurt, lemon zest, honeydew melon

2013 Red Tail Ridge Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes, New York

APPETIZER – Black Seaweed Caviar – red wine cracker, coconut crème, black garlic sauce, horseradish ginger, green apple foam

2007 Gramona “Imperial” Gran Reserva, Penedes, Spain

INTERMEZZO – Red Pepper Sorbet with a drizzle of black cardamom oil

ENTRÉE – Turmeric Saffron Risotto – green pea-mint purée, truffle crème, jasmine candy baby beets

2011 Carrick “Unravelled” Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand

SWEET – Bing Cherry Curd – chocolate marquise, meyer lemon crème, strawberry sauce

2006 Hall Merlot, Napa Valley, California

Reservations only. 202 347-8040.

Mom & Pop’s at the Mosaic District 

Kids frolic in the fountains outside Mom & Pop's - photo credit Julie Jakopic

Kids frolic in the fountains outside Mom & Pop’s – photo credit Julie Jakopic

A new spot in Fairfax’s Mosaic District is Mom & Pop’s. It’s the latest venture from Robb Duncan and his wife, Violeta Edelman, co-owners of Dolcezza Gelato & Coffee.  This snazzy fast casual spot nestled beside Strawberry Park, has joined forces with a variety of local DC artisans like Nathan Anda of Red Apron Butchery, to offer sandwiches and tasty snacks including Dolcezza’s seasonal gelato and push pops.  Stumptown roasts the coffee and morning pastries are by, Paisley Fig at Room 11 in Columbia Heights.

As Robb explains, “The name Mom & Pop resonates with us on many levels.  First, we are mom and pop at home with our two little girls, and we have always been a mom and pop to all the folks who come and work with us at Dolcezza.  Second, the term ‘mom and pop’ has this homemade, family business feel to it, which obviously jives with us.”

Popular sandwiches are the Grilled Cheese with Red Apron’s spicy smoked pimento cheese; or the Smoked Chicken Salad with cranberries, celery, smoked mayo, sour cream, onions and parsley.  The Roast Beef has Calabrian aioli, arugula and pickled fennel.  Several quiches will rotate according to the season.

If you’re going to the Angelika Theatre, a stone’s throw away, you might drop by for a quick snack before or after the show.  Try marinated olives, sundried Tomatoes, or marinated artichokes paired with smoked almonds and Spanish chorizo.  Choose from local sodas or a limited selection of beer, wine, and Prosecco, all available on tap.

Blackwall Hitch Sails Into Old Town

Be sure to check out the Sunday Jazz Brunch at Blackwall Hitch - Overlooking the main dining area

Be sure to check out the Sunday Jazz Brunch at Blackwall Hitch – Overlooking the main dining area

The dreary food court along Old Town Alexandria’s waterfront has been replaced with a spectacularly designed space that takes in a sweeping view of the Potomac River.  The chic nautical design of Blackwall Hitch has seriously ramped up the style factor in stuffy Old Town.  This gorgeous restaurant with its five bars, lounge area, private dining spaces and front and rear outdoor dining introduces a new gold standard for lower King Street.

Turquoise goblets, antique chairs and black leather sofas combine with rustic wood accents and a soaring iron stairway that takes you up to the second level and the Crow’s Nest bar.  And when the weather turns chilly you can cozy up to the outdoor fire pit.

Antipasto Chopped Salad at Blackwall Hitch

Antipasto Chopped Salad at Blackwall Hitch

I’ve eaten there three times and I have to give the food a mixed review.  The higher priced entrees did not impress, nor did the desserts, a raw dough apple dumpling made with flaky pastry and served with vanilla ice cream was disappointing, but the casual food was spot on, if a bit spare with the portions.  Stick to salads, the antipasto salad was delicious, though not terribly creative; burgers, big and juicy with the best sweet potato fries ever; and a ceviche, tingling with citrus and fresh seafood and served in an avocado.  Michael Wagner is the Executive Chef, a Culinary Institute of America grad who gained experience in fine dining and large restaurants which will will prove crucial for serving the 315-seat space with outdoor seating for 105.

Still I loved the place and plan on returning for the cocktails, freshly shucked oysters, the view, the live music, and a casual bite or two.

Photo credit: Jordan Wright

Nibbles and Sips Around Town – June 25, 2015

Jordan Wright
June 25, 2015 

America Eats Tavern Holds Inaugural Virginia Festival, Bloomsday Celebration, Blue Duck Tavern Rhapsodizes About Ice Cream, Mitsitam Gets a New Chef and We Get His Wild Rice Bars Recipe 

As expected tons of events are crammed into the month of June. Why? There seems to be a totally unfounded impression that we are all darting off to faraway lands. We wish! Here’s where we went (Chapter One) and here’s one that’s happening right now. 

America Eats Tavern Celebrates Virginia 

There’s still time to catch José Andrés Virginia Festival at America Eats Tavern at the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner. It’s an event designed to spend time with family and friends. There will be entertainment, interactive events and Virginia-themed specials throughout the week. Participating regional wineries, Barren Ridge, RdV, Barboursville, Trump Winery and Early Mountain Vineyards are featured, and cocktails have been created using spirits from local distillery Catoctin Creek.

Head Chef Nate Waugaman (left) with Executive Chef Joe Raffa

Head Chef Nate Waugaman (left) with Executive Chef Joe Raffa

We tasted some of the delicious offerings, many plumbed from Virginia’s historical recipe archives. Here are some of the Virginia specialties from Head Chef Nate Waugaman. Enjoy them from the prix fixe menu or a la carte. 

Surreyano ham biscuits with pepper jelly - Byrd Mill grits with cheddar and pearl onion petals - Fried Chesapeake oysters with rhubarb remoulade

Surreyano ham biscuits with pepper jelly – Byrd Mill grits with cheddar and pearl onion petals – Fried Chesapeake oysters with rhubarb remoulade

Edwards Surryano ham biscuits with pepper jelly – Cheese Straws – Norfolk Crab and Ham Saute – Broiled blue crab with Virginia ham and lemon butter air – Fried Chesapeake Oysters with rhubarb rémoulade and cucumber and pickled rhubarb salad – Virginia Peanut Soup garnished with celery and blackberries – Shrimp & Grits, Byrd Mill Company grits made with Meadow Creek Dairy Reserve cheddar and served with pearl onion petals and ham hock – Fried Chicken with Cole Slaw – Lemon Chess Pie – Martha Washington’s recipe Chocolate Cake (Do not leave the building without some!)

Martha Washington's Chocolate Cake

Martha Washington’s Chocolate Cake

And be sure to try the famous Sally Lunn bread. The recipe is sourced from “Housekeeping in Old Virginia” 1879. Then you can say you had some of George Washington’s favorite breakfast bread.

The festival runs till the end of June.

Bloomsday Celebrated in Washington, DC


Ambassador Anne Anderson and participants at the Cosmos Club on Bloomsday

Ambassador Anne Anderson and participants at the Cosmos Club on Bloomsday

Bloomsday, the annual Irish celebration of all things James Joyce, was ushered in in grand style on June 16th. The posh affair commenced with a musical recital of tunes related to both writers, a new ‘play for voices’, and readings which took place at the tony Cosmos Club. Afterwards guests walked a few short blocks to a garden party at the residence of Ireland’s Ambassador to the United States, Her Excellency, Anne Anderson.

Ambassador Anne Anderson addresses guests at the Cosmos Club

Ambassador Anne Anderson addresses guests at the Cosmos Club

Fortuitously it was also the 150th anniversary of the birth of that “other” great Irish writer, W. B. Yates. The proximity of the two events inspired the Embassy to combine these important events into one magical evening. Noted guests Congressman Richie Neal of Massachusetts, Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Teri Cross Davis from the Folger Shakespeare Library, and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes read poetry by Yeats and excerpts from “Ulysses”.

Ambassador Anne Anderson makes a presentation to playwright, Joe Hassett at the Resid

Ambassador Anne Anderson makes a presentation to playwright, Joe Hassett at the Resid

Joe Hassett, attorney and author of Two Stars, saw his mini-play narrated by Scena Theatre Co-founder, Robert McNamara and performed by local actors, and guests thrilled to Irish music of the period performed by John Feeley, Fran O’Rourke, Mitch Fanning, Jesse Winch, Terry Winch and Zan McLeod.

Afterwards Ambassador Anderson graciously invited everyone to the residence for cocktails and traditional Irish fare in the garden.

Blue Duck Tavern Prepares for National Ice Cream Month 

Rain came down sideways in torrents at an ice cream social at the Blue Duck Tavern where we test tasted (Oh please! Somebody has to do it.) snow cones, ice cream sundaes and mini ice cream treats dreamed up by Executive Pastry Chef Naomi Gallego. We had gathered on the terrace in the late afternoon when all hell broke loose – weather-wise that is. Thankfully a small army of chefs and managers marshaled the troops to bring us, and the precious, sweet cargo, indoors where we picked up where we’d left off.

Executive Pastry Chef Naomi Gallego makes snow cones

Executive Pastry Chef Naomi Gallego makes snow cones

As you may be aware snow cones are popular with our Hawaiian-born President and the entire Obama family. A popular street treat, the frozen concoctions are made with an untold variety of syrups and shaved ice and often include a dose of sweetened condensed milk.

We won’t guess at what additives are in those day-glo colored flavors typical to sidewalk vendors, but here they are prepared au naturel from an assortment of syrups made in house – Strawberries and Cream, Apple Pie and Cream, Root Beer Float, Ginger Raspberry Rhubarb, Peach Toasted Almond, Piña Colada and more.

Celebrating National Ice Cream Month - Fruity Pebbles Mac Sammie at the Blue Duck Tavern - Sweet mini treats

Celebrating National Ice Cream Month – Fruity Pebbles Mac Sammie at the Blue Duck Tavern – Sweet mini treats

The blissfully scrumptious sundae is assembled with a base of cornmeal shortcake, balsamic strawberries, orange ice cream and orange-flavored whipped cream.

Mini offerings were just as seductive – Peanut Butter and Banana Ice Cream Sandwich, Fruity Pebbles Mac Sammie, Triple Chocolate Ice Cream Bars, Cantaloupe Lavender Push Ups (Was this a sign to head off to the gym?) and more. We only wish we could have brought some home in a doggie bag. Sigh… 

Mitsitam Gets a New Chef 

Executive Chef Jerome Grant at Mitsitam Cafe

Executive Chef Jerome Grant at Mitsitam Cafe

This year the National Museum of the American Indian hired, Jerome Grant, as Executive Chef of the highly regarded Mitsitam Café where Grant had once worked as Sous Chef under former Executive Chef Richard Hetzler. At a private luncheon at the Museum, Chef Grant showcased some of his latest dishes.

The Oklahoma native won’t change the restaurant’s indigenous cuisine – – there will still be dishes from the Northern Woodlands, South America, the Northwest Coast, Mesoamerica and the Great Plains – – but he has definitely put his own spin on the regional menu.

From the Northern Woodlands we sampled Chilled Golden Beet Soup with Wild Ginger, Puffed Wild Rice and Cherry Granola and a beautiful Cold Broccoli Soup with Citrus Marinated Scallops and Popcorn. Also from the region was Smoked Rhubarb Turkey and Duck Fat Potato Hash with local Mushrooms.

From the Northwest Coast came plates of Wood-Fired Spot Prawns with white asparagus and pink peppercorn sorrel butter.

Wild Spot Prawns from the Northwest Coast - Cold Broccoli Soup with Citrus Marinated Scallops from the Northern Woodlands

Wild Spot Prawns from the Northwest Coast – Cold Broccoli Soup with Citrus Marinated Scallops from the Northern Woodlands

And from Mesoamerica we adored a salsa of green tomato, yellow corn and pipicha and his rendition of guacamole. What better companions?

The changes will dovetail nicely with a major new exhibition, “The Great Inka Road”, scheduled to open at NMAI on June 26th, the same time as the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival kicks off.

The bilingual exhibition explores the foundations of the Inka Road in earlier Andean cultures; as well as technologies that made building the road possible; the cosmology and political organization of the Inka world; and the legacy of the Inka Empire during the colonial period and in the present day.

The press release describes the Inka Road as “an intricate network that spans 24,000 miles across six countries and stands as one of the monumental engineering achievements in world history.”

This amazing exhibit features images, maps, models and 140 objects, including a ceramic Chavín stirrup spout bottle (the oldest item in the exhibition, ca. 800–100 B.C.), impressive gold ornaments, necklaces made from shells from the Lambayeque region, stone carvings, silver and gold figurines, and various textiles made from camelid hair and cotton.

For more information on the exhibit as well as upcoming activities, visit

We thank Chef Grant for this terrific recipe you can make at home.

Wild Grain Bars
 – Courtesy of Chef Jerome Grant

Canola oil
  • 1/2 cup salted, roasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup raw, hulled, unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup golden flaxseed
  • 3 cups raw wild rice (not a blend), separated
  • 1/2 cup dried red quinoa
  • 1/2-cup coconut milk
  • 1/2-cup mild honey
  • 3/4-cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups tart dried cherries
Wild Grain Bars

Wild Grain Bars

  1. In sauce pan over medium-high heat add two inches of canola oil. When the oil is at 410 ° Fahrenheit, add one cup of raw wild rice. Cover. The rice will expand and double in size. Skim the popped rice and transfer to a paper-towel-lined sheet pan. Add more rice to the oil and continue popping the rice until all the rice has been popped, then reserve.
  2. Place sauté pan on medium heat with two teaspoons of canola oil. Once oil becomes hot, add quinoa and lightly shake the pan. Quinoa will pop rapidly just like popcorn. Once quinoa has fully popped, remove from heat and transfer to paper-towel-lined sheet pan, and reserve.
  3. Combine the puffed wild rice, quinoa, seeds and dried fruit in a bowl and mix together.
  4. In a saucepan, combine the coconut milk, honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, and salt. Bring the sugar mix to a boil and reduce until soft-ball stage is reached (237° F). Pour the sugar mixture over the seeds and grains and mix thoroughly. Press the bars into a greased pan and let cool for about two hours before cutting.
  5. The recipe makes one 13” x 9” sheet pan, about 15-18 servings.

    Photo credit – Jordan Wright