Nibbles and Sips Around Town

Jordan Wright
March 3, 2011
Special to The Washington Examiner

 

One French Fried Bucket To Go

Bucket of Fried Chicken from Central Michel Richard - image courtesy of the restaurant

Bucket of Fried Chicken from Central Michel Richard - image courtesy of the restaurant

We’re talking fried chicken with uber French chef Michel Richard, who may be on to something with his restaurant’s version of KFC.  “I’ve always liked the crispy crunch of fried food and fried chicken was one of the first things I enjoyed when I came to this country,” he recalled.

His gourmet version, only at Central Michel Richard, comes in an un-trademarked bucket with six pieces and ten chicken “nuggets”, gussied up with his signature mashed potatoes and a Dijon dipping sauce for $29.95.

When the daffodils pop and lunch al fresco proves irresistible, it should make for the perfect date nosh at the nearby National Gallery’s Sculpture Garden.  Available for lunch and dinner for takeout only he’s also offering lobster burgers, beef filet tartare, grilled sea bass and mac n’ cheese to boot.  You can call ahead at 202 626-0015 or visit www.centralmichelrichard.com.

Mexico’s Newest Food Star

 

Patricia Jinich at the Mexican Cultural Institute - photo courtesy of Jordan Wright

Patricia Jinich at the Mexican Cultural Institute - photo courtesy of Jordan Wright

Patricia Jinich, Executive Chef at DC’s Mexican Cultural Institute, spilled her big news last week at “The Molés of Oaxaca” dinner, announcing the launch next month of her brand new PBS television series, “Pati’s Mexican Table”.  It puts her in pretty lofty culinary company with the likes of Martha Stewart, local chef Jose Andres, and the legendary Julia Childs.  “The will show bring Mexican food and flavors into American kitchens,” she told me.  “It focuses on traditional and modern takes on Mexican cuisine.  The recipes aren’t too difficult or complex, but not like fast food either.  They’re definitely oriented towards healthy family-friendly meals.”

During the wine-paired dinner, Pati hosted a lively demonstration alongside her friend Chef Alejandro Ruiz, one of Oaxaca’s hottest chefs and creator of Casa Oaxaca Restaurant which boasts a Five-Star Diamond Award.  Before serving three different types of molés, the duo taught guests how to prepare the regional dishes, whose varieties number in the hundreds, by using a variety of chiles and other molé ingredients like almonds, raisins, pumpkin seeds, tomatillos, plantains, Mexican chocolate and the ubiquitous corn masa.

For info on upcoming dinners and demo evenings with Pati and other guest chefs at the Institute visit www.instituteofmexicodc.org

 

Bollywood on the Potomac - A Taste of Maximum India

 

Beginning March 5th The Kennedy Center promises a multi-sensory culinary journey hosted by twelve chefs, flown in from the four corners of India.  The master chefs will lecture on and demonstrate their cooking techniques for the special Indian menus they have created for guests in the Rooftop Restaurant and KC Café during the “Maximum India” Festival.  Continuing through March 20th .   To learn more, visit http://www.kennedy-center.org/programs/festivals/

The Green Report

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, noted chef Cathal Armstrong presents his annual seven-course Irish feast in his luxe Restaurant Eve Tasting Room.  Known for his elegant interpretation of traditional Irish cuisine, the menu has his signature favorites such as Dublin Bay prawn bisque, braised lamb with baby root vegetables, corned beef and cabbage with Irish potatoes, of course! and bread and butter pudding with whiskey crème Anglaise.  For the more adventurous there’s ‘Mac Black’, a dish of black mackerel with fried squid ink risotto and braised cuttle fish.

 

This year’s RAMMY award nominee for Mixologist of the Year, Todd Thrasher of Restaurant Eve and PX Lounge, has created what he calls an immunity boosting cocktail to usher in the Irish festivities.  His healthful ‘Get it Right’ green drink is concocted of ingredients like spirulina, vitamin C powder, gin, vodka, coconut water and fresh herbs.  Let’s see…drink Irish and get healthy…a festive prescription indeed.

For reservations at the Alexandria, VA restaurant visit www.restauranteve.com or call 703 706 -0450.

 

Nibbles and Sips January 2011

Jordan Wright
Special to The Washington Examiner

Crescent City Comfort Food Comes to Arlington

Chef/Owner David Guas at his new digs Bayou Bakery - photo by Jordan Wright

Chef/Owner David Guas at his new digs Bayou Bakery - photo by Jordan Wright

Who dat on the corner of North Courthouse Road and 15th Street Arlington? Why, honey, it’s well-known Pastry Chef David Guas, his very own self behind the line in his new digs at Bayou Bakery. And, ohmylord, he’s cookin’ up gumbo and jambalaya and crawfish étouffée along with his scratch cakes and pralines.

Hot and steamy beignets at Bayou Bakery - photo by Jordan Wright

Hot and steamy beignets at Bayou Bakery - photo by Jordan Wright

Tucked kitty-corner into an office building, the restaurant is a homey hangout where you can lounge on leather sofas or sit at formica-topped tables. Lots of affordable small plates like the pork and rice stuffed sausage, boudin, or the spicy pimento cheese…served Big Easy-style with Triscuits. For a quick pick me up there’s the chicory-infused café au lait to go alongside your straight-from-the-fryer sugar-dusted beignets. On your way out work your Crescent City mojo with a little paper bag of his “porKorn”. It’s peanut-caramel popcorn made with Allan Benton’s Tennessee bacon. Good night, Irene!

porKorn - peanut-carmel popcorn - image by Jordan Wright

porKorn - peanut-carmel popcorn - image by Jordan Wright

Two For One On Connecticut Avenue

Connecticut Avenue’s little Bardeo and little Ardeo are together as one since the owner of both, Ashok Bajaj, heeded the call to “tear down that wall”. Now dubbed Ardeo + Bardeo. At last these conjoined twins are a single entity that better serves each. Now brick oven flatbreads, salt cod fritters and fontina-stuffed risotto balls can share space with the very elegant Pan-roasted Kingklip and Wagyu Flank Steak with white beets, Tuscan kale and salsa verde.

Tuscan Treasures Pair Up with Haute Cuisine

The prestigious Capital Wine Festival 2011 at the Fairfax Hotel at Embassy Row kicked off its second year with a reception last week showcasing wines from Italy, California and Oregon. It was an insider’s first tasting as some of these vintages will be featured in the upcoming wine dinners at the hotel. Poggio al Tesoro of Bolgheri and the San Polo Winery of Montalcino will kick off the first night of the 8-week series on February 2nd. The wineries’ legendary vintners, Marilisa Allegrini and Leonardo LoCascio guide the evening’s tasting and dinner with their super-Tuscan sangiovese and exquisite brunello.

Recent hire Mark Timms, Executive Chef at the hotel’s posh Jockey Club, will create the dinners for all eight evenings. Timms, who recently auditioned for Bravo’s upcoming Rocco DiSpirito cooking show, tells me he’s “excited to bring sexy fun back.” Must be a new vibe for the old guard hotel.

Celeb Chefs Share the Love

Back of the house - Volunteer chefs prepping for Saturday Night Sips - photo by Jordan Wright

Back of the house - Volunteer chefs prepping for Saturday Night Sips - photo by Jordan Wright

Truffled Scallop with sea urchin roe from Masa 14 at Saturday Night Sips - photo by Jordan Wright

Truffled Scallop with sea urchin roe from Masa 14 at Saturday Night Sips - photo by Jordan Wright

Alice Waters shares the love at Saturday Night Sips - photo by Jordan Wright

Alice Waters shares the love at Saturday Night Sips - photo by Jordan Wright

Cookbook author and co-host of Saturday Night Sips Joan Nathan addresses the guests - photo by Jordan Wright

Cookbook author and co-host of Saturday Night Sips Joan Nathan addresses the guests - photo by Jordan Wright

Speaking of feeling the love, a pantheon of beloved chefs raised money for Martha’s Table and D.C. Central Kitchen. Alice Waters, food activist and gourmand, José Andrés, known for his bi-coastal collection of restaurants and PBS show, “Made in Spain”, and one of the country’s leading cookbook authors, unabashed Francophile and recipe historian Joan Nathan, invited some of the city’s most terrific chefs and mixologists to launch the first of their 15-series nights called “Saturday Night Sips” and “Sunday Night Suppers”.

Owen Thompson of Café Atlantico, Jeff Faile of Palena, Dan Searing of Room 11, and Gina Chersevani of PS7’s shook, blended, stirred and poured cocktails while tasty plates were created by Will Artley of Del Ray’s Evening Star, Antonio Burrell of Masa 14, K. Vinod of Indique Heights, Bourbon Steak’s new chef, Adam Sobel, Garret Fleming of Eatonville and Graham Bartlett of Zengo. Cheers to the Truffled Scallop Seviche with sea urchin roe and American paddlefish caviar with candied Thai chiles from Masa 14, and the Peter’s Point Oysters with homemade kimchee and soju vinaigrette from Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak in the Four Seasons Georgetown.

“I think we’re in a place of changing the world,” said Waters addressing the cause-committed crowd. “All you have to do is connect.”

Irish Invasion Hits Shirlington

New kid on the block, Samuel Beckett’s Irish Gastro Pub in Shirlington had lines around the block last week at its hush-hush opening. Seems the neighborhood has been waiting for their unique Irish whiskies, Irish craft beers and bangers and mash since the opening was pushed back last year. The stunning space with gold leaf walls, three bars and a cozy library cum fireplace is currently serving a limited menu with lots of traditional dishes. And what owner Mark Kirwan calls “the new Irish Cuisine”, to round out the menu by February.

Will This Be the New Adams Morgan?

Managers Miles Gray and Sheldon Robinson of Smith Commons - photo by Greg Powers

Managing Partner Miles Gray and GM Sheldon Robinson of Smith Commons - photo by Greg Powers

Smith Commons has upped the ante in the Atlas District’s H Street Corridor with a three-story brick-walled dining room and public house. In a neighborhood known for late night get-your-groove-on hangouts like the H Street Country Club, The Red Palace, and Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar, Belgian chef Frederik De Pue has brought upscale international dining to this emerging quarter of the city. De Pue, who once worked under Alain Ducasse, opened Puro Café’s all-white South Beach-style patio in Georgetown this summer to rave reviews.

Smith Commons

Smith Commons

The beautifully restored warehouse, features a bar on every level serving both classic and modern cocktails. Sommelier Andrew Stover expertly presides over the wines, while owner Miles Gray steers the beer program that features over 40 craft beers from Canada, Belgium, Germany, Scotland, Italy and the US.

Recommended: Mushroom Cappuccino, a creamy soup of wild mushrooms and milk foam or the Sea Bass with grilled baby greens and balsamic basil dressing. Casual picks could be the Angus Beef or Crab Cake Sliders or Mango with Moulard, a salad with wok-sauteed mango and duck breast and green curry dressing.

Hip, Hot and Euro-Chic

Vail Rocks the Rockies

Jordan Wright
January 2011
Special to the Washington Examiner and the San Francisco Examiner

Cross-country skiing at the Vail Nordic Center - image by Cody Downerd

Cross-country skiing at the Vail Nordic Center - image by Cody Downerd

Cross country skiing at the Vail Nordic Center - image courtesy of Cody Downerd

Cross country skiing at the Vail Nordic Center - image courtesy of Cody Downerd

Straight out of the chute the coolest thing you’ll notice about Vail is that it’s a world-class ski resort without attitude, where status is measured in how many runs you packed in that morning or the cut of your stem christie. With its young, hip vibe and chic Tyrolean style, it appeals to both the adventure-minded thrill-seeker and the sophisticated traveler. As host to rarified-air athletes and celebs who relax and rehab in lavishly appointed hotels, spas and clinics (Lance Armstrong trains here along with top NHL, NBA and MLB players.), it is also perfectly suited to active families who prefer spending their quality time outdoors.

Adding to the fun is the mega-watt vibe from edgy-hip “boarders”, the surfers of the alpine world, who bunk ten-to-a-condo and speak in half pipe terms. That everyone shares the same turf, both on the slopes and after dark, is what makes Vail so appealing.

When you drive into Vail from reliably snow-cleared Interstate 70, the Bavarian-style village appears through the mist like Brigadoon. A visually impressive locale that consistently ranks as the number one ski resort in the US, everything is pleasantly accessible. You’ll find major hotels, restaurants and shops situated on or near a 1.3-mile oval road at the base of the mountains and served by public shuttles that make twelve strategic stops around the village every five minutes. In addition some hotels have private shuttles that chauffeur guests to their destinations. So after check-in, there is really no need to reacquaint yourself with your rent-a-car.

Riding the shuttle beats transportation at other winter resorts where navigating precipitous, icy and unfamiliar roads is the only way to get around. Here everyone’s in on the fun from entire bridal parties to skiers and boarders making their way to the lifts, and couples dressed to the nines out for a night on the town. Before long you’ll be clued in to trail conditions and sharing shopping tips with complete strangers.

Entering Vail Village across the sparkling Gore Creek and through the quaint covered bridge, the recent $1 billion dollar renaissance is everywhere. Streets and sidewalks have been replaced with heated cobblestone walkways, evoking Old World charm and providing safe pedestrian passage. And with 180 inches of cumulative snow so far this season it’s important to get to the slopes…and the shops…without a pre-trail tumble.

There is so much to do in Vail, even if you haven't a mind to schuss down a snow-covered mountain at 60 mph. Take the heated glass-enclosed Vail Mountain gondola up to Adventure Ridge, a family-friendly destination that houses the Nature Discovery Center in a large green yurt, and check out the kid-sized snowmobiles, skiing and tubing. After enjoying spectacular 360° views of the surrounding Rocky mountains and seven magnificent back bowls beckoning to be conquered, you can pop in to Bistro Fourteen for drinks and relax with three-cheese fondue or buffalo carpaccio before riding the gondola or skiing your way back down into Lionshead Village.

Ice Show at Solaris Ice Rink - image courtesy of Solaris

Ice Show at Solaris Ice Rink - image courtesy of Solaris

Bol at Solaris - Image courtesy of Solaris

Bol at Solaris - Image courtesy of Solaris

Back in the heart of Vail Village at the brand new Solaris Plaza is the stunning outdoor 6,500 square-foot Solaris Ice Rink. Designed by Denver artist and sculptor Lawrence Argent, it opened to the public last month with an ice show featuring world-class silver medalist, Patrick Chan. Also at Solaris is böl, a sleek scene-stealer of a bowling alley. With an eclectic menu, guest DJs, and cushy leather sofas, it offers over 100 wines, 30 specialty beers and artisanal cocktails. It was it one of five locations around the country for E!’s New Year’s Eve countdown. In the same complex is CinéBistro, a movie theatre where nibbles and sips are served seat-side. For indoor skating there’s the close-by Dobson Ice Arena where future Michelle Kwans can share the ice with national hockey players.

The Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum Hall of Fame is a must-see with a small theatre showing archival footage of the rugged 10th Mountain Division training at local Camp Hale circa World War II in anticipation of guarding the nation’s borders. Exhibits reflect their influence on Colorado’s emergent ski industry and display artifacts from the early years of skiing and snowboarding.

In winter the town's 18-hole golf course becomes the Vail Nordic Center where cross-country skiers have a 17-kilometer trail of set track, and there’s snowshoeing on 10 kilometers of natural beauty. Snowshoes and cross-country ski rentals are available on site. For snowboarding, skiing or ice climbing equipment rental or purchase, there’s the Bag and Pack Shop carrying apparel from Patagonia, North Face and Eagle Creek. Christy Sports is another good bet for everything else in sports gear.

Where to stay

Vail Cascade Resort and Spa - image courtesy of the resort

Vail Cascade Resort and Spa - image courtesy of the resort

The fire pit at Vail Cascade Resort and Spa - image courtesy of the hotel

The fire pit at Vail Cascade Resort and Spa - image courtesy of the hotel

Vail Cascade Resort and Spa promotes itself as the only ski-in/ski-out resort in Vail. A spectacular property, it is rated a Top 20 World’s Best Family Hotel by Travel + Leisure and is Vail’s only AAA Four-Diamond ski resort providing condo and home rentals as well as hotel accommodations. The hotel recently enjoyed a $20 million facelift that included a new heated infinity pool and hot tubs overlooking Gore Creek. Be prepared for rooms that are small by comparison to other luxury resorts. Though they make up for that with the gorgeous Aria Spa and Club, and their state-of-the-art fitness center offering an indoor track and tennis courts, as well as indoor basketball and racquetball courts in 78,000 sq. ft. of recreation facilities.

Atwater on Gore Creek is the resort’s premier restaurant helmed by Chef Adam Votaw. Braised Lamb Gnocchi and hen of the woods mushrooms with chestnut velouté reflect the season along with Korabuta Tenderloin with cranberry red cabbage, pork belly and caraway spaetzle. Plan on making reservations well in advance as one evening a month the dining room is transformed into a romantic retreat when electric light is banished in favor of hundreds of candles. Later guests can gather beneath the stars to toast s’mores over the fire pit.

The Arrabelle at Vail Square - image courtesy of RockResorts

The Arrabelle at Vail Square - image courtesy of RockResorts

The Arabelle at Vail Square is a two-year-old posh property constructed in a rustic Austrian style. Spacious rooms with fireplaces and large bathrooms with jetted soaking tubs and personal concierges who attend to your every need make this magnificent resort in the heart of Vail Village very desirable. Also available are 25 private residences with fully equipped gourmet kitchens and up to five bedrooms. RockResorts Spa at the Arrabelle, a 10,000 sq. ft. complex, incorporates mountain essences like silver sage, mint, rosemary and juniper in its deluxe body and facial treatments.

Four Seasons Resort Vail - image courtesy of Four Seasons

Four Seasons Resort Vail - image courtesy of Four Seasons

The brand new Four Seasons Resort Vail opened its doors only last month. In addition to five-star luxury hotel rooms and suites the grand hotel also offers private residential rentals. Jason Harrison, formerly at the Bellagio in Las Vegas is the top toque at Flame Restaurant preparing aged steaks and earthy comfort foods like Slow-Braised Pot Roast with horseradish potatoes, French beans and cheddar biscuits, or Tea-Smoked Rack of Venison. Sides of broiled marrow or truffled Comté fritters would satisfy any frostbitten gourmand. On the lighter side sushi chefs prepare fresh sashimi, nigiri and specialty rolls to snack on in the hotel’s Fireside Lounge.

After a grueling day on the slopes the 75-meter heated pool with a view of Vail Mountain awaits. Saunas and steam rooms ease aching muscles, while at the spa the signature Ginseng Facial Treatment uses circulation-boosting jade rollers and sybarites can splurge on the Spirit of the Rockies Couples Body Treatment.

Kids get special attention too with child-size bathrobes and slippers and kid-friendly menus in all the restaurants. The resort will arrange every kind of winter activity imaginable including horse-drawn sleigh rides and even dog sledding.

More Dining in Vail

The Bar at Kelly Liken - image by Jordan Wright

The Bar at Kelly Liken - image by Jordan Wright

Kelly Liken – Owned by celeb chef and namesake Kelly Liken, a contestant on Top Chef America and one of three finalists on Bravo’s Top Chef, this intimate and stylish modern space is one of the hottest tickets in town as evidenced by Liken’s loyal following. A small but well-chosen wine list by Liken’s husband and sommelier, Rick Colomitz, complements the inventive locally-sourced cuisine. Stand-out Maitre d’, Ricki Lane, is there to guide you through your choices. Don’t miss the Elk Carpaccio and the Potato Crusted Trout Filets typical of her Colorado cuisine. And opt for the signature cocktails made with Cap Rock Colorado Gin or Vodka.

Larkspur's Wagyu Beef Carpaccio with truffle strips - image by Jordan Wright

Larkspur's Wagyu Beef Carpaccio with truffle strips - image by Jordan Wright

Larkspur – Hand-crafted cocktails and high-end gourmet cuisine are served in this softly-lit very swank spot in the Golden Peak area. Exquisite service, coupled with an incomparable wine list of 5,000 bottles from over 500 labels, signal serious destination dining. Recommended: Chef Armando Navarro’s Duo of Colorado Lamb with white beans, tomato confit and roasted artichoke and the Mediterranean Sea Bass with fennel purée, piperade, wild greens and tapenade. Anything deft mixologist Chris David conjures up is divine.

La Tour – Chef/Owner Paul Ferzacca’s and Executive Chef Chase Wilbanks’ French fare is innovative and delicious, consistently garnering rave reviews. This month restarts the six-course tasting menu and hugely successful “Bacon Dinners”, featuring different organic bacon from around the country. Specialties include Sautéed Red Ruby Trout with chanterelle mushrooms and Serrano ham with butternut squash ginger coulis, and Seafood Bouillabaisse with saffron risotto in a tomato fennel broth. This is where to find the best Crème Brulée and Chocolate Pot de Crème.

Terra Bistro - A pioneer in the green movement when they opened and eco-conscious to the max, this attractive restaurant features an all-natural mainly organic menu and a vibrant bar scene. Get an early start to the evening with their “Appy Hour”. Trendy fare includes the Tequila and Sage Chicken Tamale with caldo verde, salsa crudo and cucumber cream, and Muscovy Duck Breast with chipotle-chocolate fig sauce and cranberry bread stuffing.

The Tap Room – For young singles and scenemakers this get-your-groove-on hangout at the base of the mountain has casual fare and great hamburgers in a well-known Vail hot spot.

The Westside Café – Funky and eclectic. Where locals go for a hearty home-style breakfast any time of the day.

Samana Lounge - A Euro-inspired small club that starts the evening as an intimate lounge with live bands, and ends up a high-octane late night dance spot. Karaoke and international DJs keep it rocking till the wee hours.

Vendetta’s – This popular hangout is where you’ll rub shoulders with landed gentry locals and hyper bar-hoppers. Fine Italian cuisine on the first level, then climb the stairs for pizza and beer and a high-decibel scene.

Shopping

 Karats Vail -  Heather Trub - Avid Design - Golden Rings

Karats Vail - Heather Trub - Avid Design - Golden Rings

Vail’s shops run the gamut from hot couture fashion to the hippest grunge snowboarder gear, to fine art and collectibles.

Karats Jewelry Gallery– One of Colorado’s best-known jewelers, owner Dan Telleen incorporates stunning exotica like ancient 2500 year-old Greek coins, 500 million-year-old trilobite fossils and even sinuous snake vertebrae with gold, silver and precious gems to craft his unique designer jewelry.

Pismo Contemporary Art Glass – Colorado’s largest collection of contemporary glass art and jewelry by both new and emerging artists and world-renowned glassblowers like Dale Chihuly.

The Gorsuch store in Vail - image courtesy of Gorsuch

The Gorsuch store in Vail - image courtesy of Gorsuch

Gorsuch – The premier apparel store for haute couture ski and après-ski clothing for men and women. With lines from Bogner, Roberto Cavalli, Botttega Veneta and so much more, this is the gold standard for ultra-chic looks both on the slopes and off.

Art Glass at the Pismo Gallery - image by Jordan Wright

Art Glass at the Pismo Gallery - image by Jordan Wright

Squash Blossom - Original fine art, bronze sculptures, one-of-a-kind jewelry, art glass and collectibles featuring international and local artists. Their other in-town location, The Cogswell Gallery is known for their beautiful collection of Native American beadwork, weavings, pottery and jewelry.

One Track Mind – The trendy destination for edgy snowboarder apparel and top-of-the-line equipment.