Nibbles and Sips Around Town ~ November 2019

Jordan Wright
November 2019 

National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Thanksgiving Dinners-To-Go ~ Lupo Verde Osteria ~ Mintwood Place ~ Junction Bakery & Bistro ~ Chop Shop Taco ~ MXDC Cocina Mexicana ~ 2941 Pairing Dinner with Spice Master Lev Lior Secarz and Bertrand Chemel 

Let Mitsitam Cater Thanksgiving Dinner 

Mitsitam Executive Chef Freddie Bitsoie tells Whisk and Quill, “Hurry up and get your shot, Jordan! This platter is really heavy!” ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

While restaurants around town are offering the usual fare for Thanksgiving take-out – turkey, cranberry sauce, green beans and stuffing, or, ‘dressing’ depending on where you were raised – one of them is leaning towards a growing clientele looking for a more authentic Thanksgiving experience.

This could be your Thanksgiving table! ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

Mitsitam Café in the National Museum of the American Indian, whose Executive Chef Freddie Bitsoie is preparing a Native American Thanksgiving menu for pickup at the Café, provides that authentic experience.  Since American Indians are the first real Americans, dining on these indigenously inspired dishes becomes a deeper more historically engaged experience – one that honors ingredients popular in American Indian culture.  The menu sources ingredients from around the country (the turkey is from a local farm) and will be available in the Café Thursday through Saturday during Thanksgiving week.

This unique holiday dinner features a whole turkey glazed with real maple syrup, cranberry sauce, gravy, cornbread, dessert and a choice of four of these five sides – Wild Rice Salad with pine nuts, carrots, scallions, cranberries; Three Sister Salad, a New Mexican inspiration made with corn, black beans, squash, parsley and lemon; Agave Braised Butternut Squash topped with pecans; and, of course, creamy mashed potatoes with gravy.  “Made in the French style with a stick of butter for each Russet potato,” says Bitsoie.  A scrumptious Pumpkin Chocolate Bread pudding provides the sweet finish.

Thanksgiving dinner from Mitsitam Café ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

Bitsoie, who has been featured in America: The Cookbook, The New York Times, “Lidia Celebrates America” with Lidia Bastianich, and NPR, is one of a handful of Native American chefs at the forefront of preparing, presenting and educating about foods indigenous to the Americas.  Whisk and Quill caught up with Bitsoie after his recent lecture at Harvard University where he spoke about cultural anthropology and diffusion culture.  “Thanksgiving tells a mythical story about this time of year,” he told me.  “It’s very ironic and goes against the grain of our history.”

The complete holiday dinners are priced at $190.00 and serve 6-8 guests.  They are available for pick-up at Mitsitam Café from 10AM – 5PM by November 27th, the day before Thanksgiving.  The deadline for placing orders is November 25th.   Bonus: For each 25 dinners sold, one is donated to a needy family through Martha’s Table.

To order online visit or call (202) 633.7044.  The Thanksgiving menu will be available in the cafeteria from Thursdays through Sundays.  The museum will be hosting Native American Heritage Day on Friday, November 29th from 10AM – 4PM.  For information on other festivals, screenings, talks and performances visit NMAI.

Lupo Verde Osteria

The cozy bar and front dining room at Lupo Verde Osteria ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

If I lived in the Palisades neighborhood of DC, you might find me nestled at a table in the cozy front room enjoying a bowl of linguine with clam sauce, or perched at the bar having a midday espresso.  If I’m with friends, I’d probably head upstairs to the large dining room with windows all around.

The private dining room at Lupo Verde Osteria ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

Each area in the two-story restaurant and bar has a different personality or purpose whether you’re after a glass of wine, a leisurely lunch, a private dinner party space or just a coffee and pastry on the fly.  The cozy Italian-centric spot is not a designer’s idea of what an Italian interior should look like, but the sort of place you might find if you were somewhere in Italy and locals steered you to their favorite restaurant – one that suits all generations.

Fried artichokes – Pappardelle with truffles – Don’t miss dessert at Lupo Verde Osteria! ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

Scan the Market at the entrance where you can find everything you need to make an Italian dinner – a curated collection of olive oils, house baked breads, San Marzano tomatoes and pastas, salumi, cheeses, and homemade sauces.  Pick up a few containers of tiramisu and some pistachio torrone, add in a few bottles of wine and you’re the perfect host.

If you’re dining in, the private chef’s table might be the perfect answer.  Dressed in white linens and graced with floral sprays, the table seats up to eight guests.  It’s perfectly intimate and especially charming.  As an added bonus you can see straight through to the kitchen as Executive Chef, Matt Franklin, prepares a customized seven-course dinner for your lucky guests.  Book ahead for this one-of-a-kind dining experience.

Chef Franklin in the alimentari at Lupo Verde Osteria ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

Lupo Verde Osteria and Market is located at 4814 MacArthur Boulevard, NW, Washington, DC 20007   202.506.6683.

MXDC Offers a November Shabu Shabu Menu

Celebrity Chef Todd English serves up the shabu shabu ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

Last week celebrity chef Todd English came to his MXDC Cocina Mexicana restaurant DC and treated a small group of journalists for a taste of his Japanese shabu shabu menu.  Available only in November, the two-course Nabemono hot pot dinner for two is priced at $65.00 per couple – tax and tip not included.

Braised Duck with Chocolate Molé ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

A seasoned dashi broth in your table top hot pot comes surrounded by twelve thin slices of ribeye steak and shitake mushrooms paired with warm tortillas, red onion and cilantro hoisin mole sauce and cooked piece-by-piece at the table by the guest.  The second course is a dish of angel hair pasta served with carrots, potatoes, zucchini and pulled short rib.

Shabu shabu ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

Of course, the regular menu is still in play, and the seviches here are destination-worthy.  Try the shrimp enhanced with a chipotle back note.  From the Platos Fuertes menu the MX Chipotle Pasta is a sure winner.  Gluten-free, it’s made with corn pasta and laden with shrimp and mussels in a chipotle cream sauce.

Quail eggs with caviar ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

Skip the Tres Leches cake, it seems to lack one of the leches – sweetened condensed milk that gives it that tender, creamy texture – and opt for the classic flan with Frangelico.

Scallop seviche ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

Drinks are MXDC’s strong suit.  Think imaginative margaritas and a selection of over 100 varieties of tequila.  But be forewarned, all the cocktails here are super strong.  That might appeal to some, but I struggled to finish just one.  New fall cocktails feature the ‘La Mula Ilegal’ with Ilegal Joven Mezcal, allspice dram, house-made ginger beer and lime; ‘Smoked Negroni’ with mezcal, Agave de Cortes, Campari, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino and orange bitters; ‘Mezcal Old Fashioned’ with Ilegal Joven Mezcal, Diplomatico white rum, orange bitters and Angostura bitters.

MXDC Cocina Mexicana is located in the heart of downtown at 600 14th Street, NW, 20005. For reservations call 202.393.1900.

2941 Restaurant Collaboration Dinner 

The beautiful water feature at the entrance to 2941 Restaurant ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

A unique collaboration is underway this month at 2941 Restaurant.  Spice Master Lior Lev Sercarz, whose just released book Mastering Spice: Recipes and Techniques to Transform Your Everyday Cooking (Clarkson Potter 2019) hit the stands with a bang, has partnered with Executive Chef Bertrand Chemel to orchestrate a special dining experience.  The menu has been carefully crafted to showcase Sercarz’s latest spice combinations in harmony with Chemel’s beautifully finessed, contemporary American cuisine.

Much like a “nose” in perfumery, Lior Lev Sercarz uses his fine-tuned palate to create memorable flavors.  Lev Sercarz is a chef, spice blender and owner of New York City’s La Boîte.  After working for notable chef Daniel Boulud at his flagship Daniel, Lev Sercarz opened La Boîte in 2008.  Here, he creates scores of innovative and evocative spice blends, each a reflection of a place, a moment, or cultural influence.  Lev Sercarz has worked closely with chefs from around the world, developing custom spice blends at restaurants such as Daniel, Le Bernardin, Zahav, Momofuku Ssäm Bar, Momofuku Kawi, Del Posto, Blackbird Restaurant, and Michael Mina, among others.

Executive Chef Bertrand Chemel – Photo Credit Ashlie Levy

Sercarz and La Boîte have been profiled in numerous national publications including The New York Times, Vogue, InStyle, Food & Wine and the Saveur magazine ‘100’.  He previously authored The Art of Blending and The Spice Companion.  His spices are sold online and in various boutiques including ABC Carpet & Home and Eataly.

Lior Lev Sercarz with noted cookbook author Joan Nathan ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

This new cookbook features over 250 recipes that inform readers how spices can change the way one makes everyday meals. Throughout the book there are master recipes and techniques that are then followed by four or five complementary recipes, allowing readers to make small adjustments in spices or ingredients to create profoundly different dishes.  By mastering these techniques and playing with variations, readers will learn how to use spices to become a more creative and intuitive cook.  Guests of the special spice dinner will enjoy a posh eight-course dinner with wine pairings and receive a special spice packet plus a signed copy of Sercarz’s latest book priced at $150. per person (tax and gratuity included).

The complete menu, a blend of Chemel’s and Lev Sercarz’s recipes, is presented below.   

Le Puy Lentils Soup
dried Persian lime, celery seeds, carrot and urfa pepper
Sea Scallop Crudo
Bombay vinaigrette, green apple and celery 

Second Course
Heirloom Beet Carpaccio
roasted fig & aged manchego and vincotto
Foie Gras Ballotine
marinated in Porto, Challah bread and orange- fig marmalade

Third Course
Strozzapreti Cacio e Pepe
cubeb black pepper, pecorino, black truffle tapenade and chanterelles

Fourth Course
Japanese Madai
Leeks, Kohlrabi and saffron mussel sauce
Pkaila Cassolette
Cranberry beans, pearl onion, ayala spice and tomato

Fifth Course
Lamb Duo
Fennel & coriander crusted rack of lamb, braised lamb neck, caramelized onion and carrots
Fall Onion Tart
Caramelized onion & celery root, smoked sea salt-pioppini mushrooms and baby carrots

Sixth Course
Wood fire Grilled Rib Eye
Cocoa-chile spiced rib eye and izac pomme croquette
Citrus Cauliflower Gashi
curried cauliflower, fingerling potato and fried black rice 

Seventh Course
Cheese Duo
Butternut squash tatin, goat cheese-sage ice cream &
Jasper Hill Farm Harbison cheese souffle

Citron Tart
Luberon spice, lemon marmalade, buttermilk Chantilly, spiced sable and toasted meringue
Pecan Mont Blanc
Reims spice, pecan mousseline, spiced chocolate cake, chocolate sable and caramel ice cream

Citron Tart | Cocoa Puff | Beet Cake | Baked Alaska ~ Photo Credit Ashlie Levy

2941 Restaurant is located at 2941 Fairview Park Drive, Falls Church, VA 22042.  For reservations please call 703.270.1500.  Complimentary valet parking.

Mintwood Place 

The bar area at Mintwood Place ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

Mintwood Place, a delightful neighborhood brasserie, is revealing a post workday Happy Hour plan with its newly expanded bar menu.  This intimate Adams Morgan bistro with cozy dining niches overlooking the street, is overseen by Chef de Cuisine Matthew Cockrell and Pastry Chef Stephanie Milne.

Chef de Cuisine Matthew Cockrell in the kitchen at Mintwood Place ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

A 31-seat bar and lounge are the perfect space for lively convos and specially priced bar snacks like moules frites meuniere and duck rillettes during happy hour.

Autumn salad with pears and blue cheese dressing at Mintwood Place ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

Graze on their ‘Mountain Pies’ like apple, fontina and tarragon or Dijon and ham or gouda cheese with caramelized onion and frisée or dig into tummy-warming vegetable sides like the Signature Ratatouille; Lemon Quinoa with shaved turnips and parsnips; or Pear Onion Tartlets.  There’s Split Pea Soup with Tasso ham; Wild Mushroom Soup with crispy wild rice and Butternut Squash Soup with spiced pepitas.

Wagyu beef tartare with quail egg and potato gaufrettes at Mintwood Place ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

Warm up from winter’s icy grip with one of the latest cocktails from Bar Manager Matthew Wilcox – “The Cayuga”, made with rye whiskey, riesling, grenadine, spiced apple cider, and tarragon; “All Over The Map”, with sour cherry bitter liquor, pineapple juice, ginger cordial, cherry syrup, chamomile bitters and soda water; or “Anjou Can Tell Everybody”, with cognac, pear mix, lemon juice, lime juice and Peychaud’s bitters.

Mintwood Place is located at 1813 Columbia Road, NW, Washington, DC 20009. 202.234.6732

Junction Bakery & Bistro Opens for Dinner Service

Junction Bakery has been a mainstay in the Del Ray community for a number of years with its house baked croissants, cakes, breads, muffins, plus a lunchtime soups and salads menu.  Centrally located at the corner of Mount Vernon Avenue and East Monroe Avenue, the charming breakfast and lunch spot has eschewed dinner service until now.  What, you wonder, would they offer for a full-on meal?  Well, I was pleasantly surprised when I tried a number of items from Executive Chef James Duke’s dinner menu featuring a wide range of options.

Trending somewhat towards Asian fusion (Duke has mad skills as a fermenter), I found banh mi sandwiches, curries, tofu stir fry, rice bowls using the gold standard Carolina Gold rice, a sesame kale salad, and hand-rolled Peking duck dumplings.

For those who like their dinners Southern and homey, there are a wealth of options like pot roast, Memphis-style BBQ, mac and cheese, and a whole roast chicken with taters and field greens.

Pastry Chef Gianpier Flores triumphs with sky high chocolate cake and chocolate croissants with a Valrhona chocolate baton tucked inside.  Start off with signature cocktails then ask Beverage Director and Sommelier Michael Rovezzi to pair wines or local beers with your dinner. 

Junction Bakery & Bistro is located at 1508 Mt. Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22301.  For information and reservations call 703.436.0025.

Hidden Gem Chop Shop Taco in Old Town Alexandria 

Chop Shop Taco ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

Several blocks from Old Town’s usual restaurant row on King Street, this hidden gem of a taco joint delivers big flavor both in drinks and tacos.  Located in a former car repair garage, the whole front of the building is a garage door that flips open on balmy days.  With a walk-up window that stays open late, this is where hipsters and after-shift chefs go to chill in Alexandria.

Throwback glassware holds a margarita ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

I was going to keep this place a secret, and I did for awhile, but when I heard one of the guys at my local Trader Joe’s chatting up a customer with the news that these are the best tacos around, I thought it was time to let the cat out of the proverbial bag.

Taco with avocado at Chop Shop Taco ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

Decorated with street art murals, the two-level spot features unusual taco combinations like fatty brisket tacos made with star anise and an Asian style taco made with bone-in duck leg roasted in duck fat with gochujang, chipotle and pineapple.  Fried avocado tacos will undoubtedly appeal to those coming from the many nearby fitness studios.  Pick from a stable of hot sauces, mild or blazing hot, to complement your tacos.  And don’t say I didn’t share my secret spot with my dear readers.

It’s family friendly at Chop Shop Taco ~ Photo credit Jordan Wright

Chop Shop Taco is located at 1008 Madison Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 just off of North Henry Street (Route 1).  For information call 571.970.6438.

Nibbles and Sips Around Town ~ June 2019

Jordan Wright
June 2019
Photo credit: Jordan Wright

East Indian Glamour at Punjab Grill ~ Gâteau Bakery Café & Tea Room Brings Bespoke British Tea Time to Old Town Warrenton ~ High Street Café – Latin-inspired Brasserie in Georgetown

 Punjab Grill  

Glamorous table setting at Punjab Grill

As a great admirer of Indian cuisine (inspired by my mother who turned down a marriage proposal from the last Maharaja of Sarila , I have been delighted with the wide variety of Indian restaurants around DC.  Dining at the award-winning Rasika or Indique  or Bombay Club (think days of the Raj) spring to mind.  Even casual spots like Indigo and Pappe   – which all are on my short list.  Travel outside city limits and a new Indian restaurant seems to pop up every month.  The more exposed we are to the joys and complexities of Indian food, the more we want to try a new one.

Tandoori Tiger Prawns at Punjab Grill

Punjab doesn’t tumble neatly into any of these categories.  It stands alone as a temple to Indian fine dining with its luxe décor – Hermés plates, napkin rings and gold-handled silverware – and well-trained, crisply uniformed waitstaff.   If I were hosting a dream dinner party it would be luxuriating in its private dining room where 150,000 miniature, convex mirrors reflect the light from dozens of candles and low-lit chandeliers, and where a long dining table inlaid with mother-of-pearl creates a glimmering, shimmering ambiance that reeks of regal sophistication.  Dubbed the ‘Sheesh Mahal’ or ‘Palace of Mirrors’ it accommodates ten of your nearest and dearest.

Punjab Grill’s Chutney Flight

Another dining room – dubbed the ‘Passage to India’ is inspired by the private railroad car journeys through India taken in the comfort of royal saloons.  Each table is supported by a hand-carved marble base, sourced from the same mines as the Taj Mahal.  Its walls are artfully decorated with beautifully carved wooden latticework.

Malabar Macchi- Chilean Sea Bass with jaggery cumin glaze, Brussels sprouts thoran and kokum coconut sauce

A translucent onyx bar at the entrance beckons you to order one of their delicately-spiced cocktails.  Decorated with marble inlays and aglow with amber lighting from within the stone, it makes for a dramatic introduction to the dining rooms where dishes are treated as works of art.

Aloo Tikki Chaat surrounded by pomegranate seeds

A must-have starter is the sampler of six distinctive chutneys – mango, pineapple, mint yoghurt, ginger tamarind carrot pickle, turnip pickle, radish pickle and laccha onion surrounding an assortment of crisp “breads” – poppadum, dosa crisps and naan grissini.  The pink one is tinted with beet juice.

As beautiful as the dishes are, they are not mere window dressing.  The food is divine – a tribute to Executive Chef Jaspratap ‘Jassi’ Bindra’s modern twist on Indian cuisine.

Salted Caramel Paneer Cheesecake​ (L) ​–​ honey cashew crust, mascarpone cream / Chocolate Pistachio Giandiya (R)​ ​–​ cardamom ganache, chocolate sable

Punjab Grill, 427 11th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20004. Reservations are recommended.  Call 202 813.3004 or visit ​ Valet parking is available at dinner.

Gâteau Bakery Café & Tea Room

Gâteau Bakery Café and Tea Room in Warrenton, VA

I met owner Lora Vennettilli Gookin at a Gold Cup event in The Plains, Virginia a few years ago.  I had been gobbling up her delicious pastries while visiting the Airlie tent and was introduced to her by a mutual friend.  Lora let me know she was opening a bakery in Old Town Warrenton and was in the process of restoring a historic building in the center of town.  She promised to contact me when it was ready.  Fast forward two years later and Lora made good on her pledge and that was how I came to experience Gâteau Bakery’s delightfully delicious afternoon tea.

Owner/Baker Lora Vennetilli Gookin in front of the historic bank’s vault where she houses the collection of cups and teapots used for tea service.

A short drive out from DC, and a world away from the stresses of the city, the charming bakery plus tea room is situated near the Fauquier Courthouse and Fauquier History Museum and Old Jail, both of which are worth a visit.  Built in 1860, the bakery itself with its interior brick walls is housed in what was once the Bank of Warrenton.  On one side you’ll find the tea room on the other near the entrance a gift shop, takeout bakery and a café serving soups, salads and sandwiches.

Baba au rhum at Gateau Bakery

Lora is a superb pastry chef and enterprising baker.  All the scrumptious baked goods are baked by Lora and her well-trained staff of bakers.  In the bakery section you’ll find lots of flavors of cakes (caramel cakes!) and cupcakes (coconut chocolate almond!) plus savory treats to take away – cupcakes, muffins, biscuits, cookies, cakes and classic desserts like baba au rhum.  For those with specific food issues or allergies, you can still have your cake and eat it too with gluten-free, dairy-free and/or vegan options.  For my friend and I, the exquisitely prepared afternoon tea is what we came for.  Take away sweets can wait.

Different levels of the tea experience are offered.  I recommend you go all in with the Royal Tea featuring cucumber sandwiches, mini savory puff pastries with tomato, basil and mozzarella, scones (flavors at the whim of the chef), Virginia ham and sweet potato biscuits served with mustard butter, curried egg salad, mini chocolate tarts with shortbread crust, and an assortment of cookies and scrumptiously rich cake bites.  It is a tea lover’s dreamland heightened by the freshly whipped cream and seasonal fruit jams.

The bakery and gift shop at Gâteau

Twenty-five varieties of tea grace the menu.  Your selection is brought to the table in an individual pot, kept warm with hand-knit tea cosies Lora has made in England.  Each pot and cosy are unique and tea varieties are custom made exclusively for the bakery by Green Alchemy Herb & Mercantile Company owned by nearby Lovettsville residents, Sarah and Peter Roussos, a former chemistry teacher.  Be sure to take home a few of these unique teas.  The Roussos’s ‘American Chai’ has been patented and is the perfect morning sip.

The Royal Tea at Gateau Bakery

Lora also serves a Children’s Tea, which is the best way to introduce your child to the finer things in life (including good table manners).  The Gentleman’s Tea is more meat- and cheese-centric and features bison sliders and smoked gouda grits washed down with a sprightly pilsner.  For those craving something with a bit more punch, the bakery has a full-on liquor license that includes cocktails, wine, beer and champagne.

Once a career civil engineer who, encouraged by friends, attended pastry school in Scottsdale, Arizona, Lora has her own style.  Though many of her pastries are of the classic variety, this is not your average corner bakery.  On-trend sweets as well as gorgeously decorated multi-tiered wedding cakes that are her most popular items.  Lora is committed to the best quality ingredients – many of which are locally sourced.  A visit to her website reveals more about her exacting practices.  “All of our cakes, fillings and frostings are skillfully made from scratch using select organic ingredients, no shortening, unbleached and unbromated flour, aluminum free leaveners and non-GMO ingredients.”

Gâteau Bakery Café and Tea Room is located on 12 Culpeper Street, Warrenton, VA 20186. Reservations are recommended for afternoon tea.  Call 540 347.9188 or visit

High Street Café  

The bar at High Street Café

Imagine my surprise to find Georgetown’s old Paolo’s turned into an American brasserie with a Latin flair.  It’s like having culinary Europe at your doorstep.  Veteran restauranteur Manuel Iguino is back and center stage.  (Nearly a decade ago he served the pounded plantain dish mofongo at his Puerto Rican-influenced restaurant Mio.)  Whether sitting on the patio smack dab on Wisconsin Avenue (perfect for people-watching) or perched at the intimate bar, or nicely cosseted on a banquette, Georgetown’s hustle-bustle is at eye level.  Located in the heart of Georgetown’s toniest environs, his latest venture, High Street Café, affords diners a sunset view, an accomplished chef, Gerard Cribbin, and an ambitiously creative cocktail program by Beverage Director, Carl Townsend.

Cribbin, who once cheffed a few blocks away at Filomena’s making fresh pastas, drifted farther south.  After stints in Greenville, SC, a noted foodie destination where he was chef and co-owner of Gerard’s, he cooked at The Lazy Goat and later became the executive chef at Coal Fired Bistro.  For now, he’s back in the nation’s capital.  Let’s hope he stays.  At Coal Fired Bistro his seafood bisque became all the rage.  It’s one of his specialties and on the menu here.  Cribbin has his own way of interpreting the dishes we think we’re familiar with.  A starter of tuna tartare was a surprising refresher.  Not your usual raw fish dish, this version becomes elevated with the addition of tiny cubes of sweet mango and a silken dressing of orange cream.

Scallops with wild mushrooms, sherry cream, spinach and saffron risotto

A wide array of menu items (I spotted lechon pizza!) beckons, but I drilled down on a calf’s liver starter.  Now there are a lot of things that can go wrong with this rarely encountered delicacy – a chef that thinks it’s okay to substitute beef liver (too bitter), overcooking (tough as shoe leather) and near-raw onions.

Calf’s Liver with caramelized shallots

The onions must be caramelized through a process of long, low and slow cooking.  For those who are equally as discerning about liver and onions, I can report that this one was sheer perfection and served with caramelized shallots.  Even better, as these tiny bulbs yield a sweeter result.

Tuna Tartare with mango, orange cream and baby kale

Another dish I measure a restaurant’s chef by, is Spaghetti alla Vongole.  Cribbin prepares it with the tiniest of sweet clams, plenty of garlic, seasoned bread crumbs and a charred lemon on the side.  Memorable.  A dish of perfectly bronzed scallops with wild mushrooms and sherry cream and risotto was oh, so rich and delicious too.

Spaghetti alla Vongole

Although I was racing off to the theatre and I usually forgo a drink when I’m working, I wanted to try, on this very hot day, just one mojito.  It’s a good way to test a bar’s credibility as too often this classic Spanish cocktail is dumbed down by a lazy bartender who plants a solitary sprig of mint and calls it a day.  Townsend’s was a veritable garden of mint and limes and super hydrating.

High Street Café’s Mojito

Here are a few of Townsend’s specialty summer cocktails:  ‘Mai High Tai’ with Novo Fogo Cachaça, Dry Curaçao and orgeat; ‘Seasonal Buck’ with Gin Lane 1751 ‘Victoria’ Pink Gin, lavender and ginger beer; ‘Ponce Old Fashioned’ with Don Q Añejo Rum, turbinado and bitters; ‘Spicy Guava Pisco Sour’ with Soldeica Pisco, Ancho Reyes and sichuan syrup; and ‘Paloma-rita’ with Rooster Rojo Tequila, lime and grapefruit soda.

Two house-aged cocktails presented by High West Whiskey are also featured – the ‘Chili Aged Manhattan’ with High West American Prairie Bourbon, vermouth and Amargo de Chile; and the ‘Caribbean Negroni’ with Don Q Gold Rum, Tiki Lovers Dark Rum, amaro blend and vermouth blend.

A return trip (with alcohol) is definitely on the horizon.

High Street Café – 1303 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20007.  Call 202 333.0256.

Blue Star Families Gather for 10th Annual Chef’s Challenge at the U. S. Chamber of Commerce

Jordan Wright
May 15, 2019

Top chefs from a collection of our area’s best restaurants came together earlier this week for the 10th Annual Blue Star Families Celebration.  Paired with chefs from the different branches of the military, together they created unique and scrumptious nibbles and sips.  This singular arrangement encourages the importance of and solidifies BSF’s mission to bridge the gap between civilian and military communities.  Awards were presented by General and Mrs. Joseph F. Dunford, USMC and Brianna Kellar, Anchor of CNN’s Right Now and Blue Star Ambassador.

Blue Star Chefs and Partners with winning chef Shamon Hill (Top Row – third from the left)

With a view of the White House across Lafayette Park as a backdrop, guests were treated to an array of fabulous food and colorful cocktails created by Todd Thrasher who, alas, was busy at his new distillery and bar, Tiki TNT & Potomac Distilling Company.  The red-carpet event was Co-Chaired by General George W. Casey, Jr. USA (ret) and his wife, Sheila Casey and attended by military VIPs and their wives, many of whom donate their time to support military families in need.

Dog Tag Bakery’s Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

A step-and-repeat was offered to guests whose photos were posted to the Blue Star Families’s website and colorful bead necklaces were given to guests to vote on the chefs whose dishes they liked most.  Young chef Shamon Hill, ‘Military Brat’ of the USMC who partnered with Chris Clime of PassionFish, were the winners of the competition with their delicious ‘Smoked Salmon Pizzelle’ served with an everything bagel crisp, Coleman mustard aioli, pickled red onions, chopped eggs and capers.

The winning dish ‘Smoked Salmon Pizzelle’

A bit of background on this amazing organization: Through their All-Volunteer Force 50 chapters around the world serve military families, providing assistance through education, empowerment and employment programs in civilian communities.  Chapters partner with the general public and other services to address the daily challenges of military life.  Over 1.5 million military families are helped every year.  Can I get a hooray?

During the event, Susan Masser received the 2019 Blue Star Neighbors Award. Masser was nominated by friends Major Steven Brewer and his wife Chelle Brewer for saving their daughter’s life and for her unconditional friendship and support.  General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Mrs. Ellyn Dunford presented the award.  The star-studded affair was attended by the highest decorated military leaders, business executives, celebrities, Congressional delegates, and government leaders who are dedicated to strengthening opportunities for military families through Blue Star Families.  A few of those high-level military leaders and VIPs in attendance included General H. R. McMaster – National Security Advisor; Robert “Bob” Gates – Former US Secretary of Defense and current Director of Starbucks; and Dr. Lynda Davis – U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Guests were serenaded by the Washington Performing Arts Men and Women of the Gospel Choir and entertained by military spouse and comedian, Maggie Phillips of the Armed Services Arts Partnership.

The 2019 celebrity chefs and culinary partners with their tastings included:

  • Chef Chris Clime of PassionFish Restaurant with USMC “military brat” Shamon Hill  ‘Smoked Salmon Pizzelle’ with an everything bagel crisp, Coleman mustard aioli, pickled red onions, chopped eggs and capers.

Chef David Guas with TSgt Claire Kim

  • Chef David Guas of Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery with TSgt Claire Kim of the Air National Guard – ‘South Meets East’ Spicy Chilled Crawfish Etouffée with puffed rice chip

Chef Harley Peet (left) with CSCS James Swenson (right) and an assistant (center)

  • Chef Harley Peet of Bas Rouge in Easton, MD with CSCS James Swenson of the Coast Guard – Ahi Tuna Tartare with preserved lemon, crème fraiche and osetra caviar
  • Chef Kyle Bailey of The Salt Line with SSG John Densham of the Army – Pork Belly Slider with Asian pear BBQ, broccoli rabe, fennel-apple slaw on an onion roll
  • Chef Ris Lacoste of RIS Restaurant with CS1 Sierra Tyler – Miso Salmon Tartare with fried wontons, Napa cabbage slaw, sriracha aioli

Chef Robert Wiedmaier (center) with TSgt Kristi Jackman (right)

  • Chef Robert Wiedmaier of Marcel’s with TSgt Kristi Jackman of the Air Force – Roasted Herb Barley with peas, fava beans, toasted cashew hummus, black truffles
  • Chef Todd Gray of Equinox with SSgt Hiram Carrion of the Marine Corps – Medjool Date Tabbouleh Salad with spiced carrots and green tahini

Todd Thrasher’s ‘JCS Cooler’

  • Mixologist Todd Thrasher of Tiki TNT – ‘Code Red’ and ‘JCS Cooler’ cocktails

Awards for their service and inspiration were given out to the following people and organizations.

  • The Walt Disney® Company — Corporate Neighbor Award
  • Craig Newmark, Founder of Craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies — Constance J. Milstein Philanthropic Award who donated $1M to the New York Chapter
  • Susan Masser, Civilian Hero — 2019 Blue Star Neighbors Award

Ian Bohen, American Actor and Director of Paramount Pictures’ Yellowstone  Master of Ceremonies

Nibbles and Sips Around Town ~ March/April 2019

Jordan Wright
March/April 2019
Photo credit:  Jordan Wright


March activities, with a bit of overlap from late February, found us busier than the proverbial bee with restaurant openings, some changing chefs, and others embracing new menus.  There were surprises and a single disappointment (it happens to the best of restaurants) – some that could be helped and others that couldn’t.


As Spanish cuisine continues its appeal across the DMV, Boqueria is a stunning recent addition to the Penn Quarter scene.  (Their first location is in Georgetown).  Though you’ll find many of the usual tapas on the extensive menu – pan con tomate, patatas brava (excellent here) and croquettas cremosas – there are many more unfamiliar and unique tapas.  And that is how it should be.  If you were bar hopping in Spain, and who isn’t, you’d find that every bar has its signature tapas.  Escalivada is one such specialty and you will find it here.  It incorporates fire-roasted eggplant with red pepper and onions slathered with labne yoghurt and is topped with fresh herbs and olive oil.  Shrimp are an add-on.

Shrimp tapas

Speaking of shrimp, it’s my only complaint here.  They are quite small, which means they cook too fast and become tough.  Furthermore, they are served decapitated which omits the tastiest part.  All the flavor and fat are in the head.  I know you’ve heard my gripe about this American abomination of removing the tastiest part of the shrimp in past reviews.  When I mention this unfortunate decision to chefs or servers, the answer I get is that diners are uncomfortable seeing the head on.  Let’s change that.

Otherwise, Boqueria is fantastic.  A beautiful setting, sleek and chic, with light wood interior and a large bar laden with fruits, ready-to-slice Iberico ham and pickled vegetables.  There are high tops with stools alongside the bar, which is fun if you’re planning on interacting with the bar scene, but I suggest you take a table or better yet one of the roomy booths in the back where you can spread out and watch the action in the open kitchen.  The lighting is perfect.  You can see your food and enjoy the shared camaraderie of the rhythm of the place, designed for people watching.  Okay, it’s noisy, aka lively, but you can easily hear your dining partners.

The marble topped bar

Sangrias by the glass or pitcher are a main feature of the spirits program.  Don’t miss out, they are delicious.  Some sangrias are standard fare, while others change with the seasons.  And, rather than the usual wine-with-brandy base, different spirits form the base depending on your selection.  Rosada, made with rosé, tequila, cranberry, pomegranate, and hibiscus-soaked strawberries is the perfect spring sparkler, and Naranja Sanguina, a seasonal option, is flavored with blood orange, cava, tequila, and lime cordial.  Refrescantes start with Seedlip, the world’s first non-alcoholic distilled spirit and a story in itself, adds herbs and fresh fruit flavors.

The menu has a lot of moving parts – the aforementioned tapas; an entire section devoted to Spanish cheeses and premium Spanish hams; meats; seafood; vegetables that include salads; and a chef’s menu, described as a “journey through the classics”.  If you are really invested in the whole dining-in-Spain experience, you can order the Cochinillo Feast.  Ideal for a table of six, it features a whole suckling pig with sides.  Three days’ notice is required, so plan in advance.

Pear and fennel salad with fried walnuts ~ Wild mushroom flatbread

We enjoyed a number of these dishes, including tapas.  All are served in large portions, enough to share.  Ensalada de Hinojo y Peras, a refreshing salad of fennel, pears, and fried walnuts with a delicate citrus dressing, was more than enough to share and still have leftovers, as was Coca de Setas, a grilled flatbread with puréed porcini mushrooms, Idiazábal cheese, caramelized onions, wild mushrooms, and pine nuts and topped with a tangle of arugula.  For now, pork- or seafood-centric paella is served only at brunch, as is an organic roast chicken, half or whole, accompanied by eggs, roasted root vegetables, and salsa verde.

Churros and chocolate

They are crazy for churros here and you will be too.  Crisp on the outside with a soft cake-like interior, they come traditional style, served with a ramekin of hot gooey chocolate for dipping, or filled with a choice of Nutella or dulce de leche.  We watched in wonder as orders of unicorn-worthy Churros Ice Cream Sundaes were being carried around the room.  These over-the-top, colorful concoctions boast churros, vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, dulce de leche, whipped cream, walnuts and rainbow sprinkles.  Perfect for birthday celebrations.

Hazelnut and almond turrón cake with honey dulce de leche ice cream

Boqueria – 777 9th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001 in Penn Quarter.  Boqueria has another location in Georgetown at 1837 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036.

The Light Horse Restaurant Picks New Chef, Debuts Stylish Décor and a New Menu

This King Street tavern, best known for its rowdy upstairs sports bar that offers shuffleboard, skeeball and live music after 10pm, has done a complete 180 degrees in its downstairs bar and restaurant with a stunning transformation.  It’s owned by the same two brothers that launched Red’s Table in Reston – another popular eatery that hosts wine and beer pairing dinners.

The owner was careful not to ignore the popular bar scene.  He just improved on it with a unique 38-foot bar that uses an eye-catching fractal wood burning technique, also known as the ‘Lichtenberg figure’ – a process of burning lightning or tree-like figures into wood using high voltage electricity.  A bioluminescence material is then applied in the fissures causing them to appear to glow bluish bioluminescent plankton as seen in certain oceans at night.

The bioluminescent bar

The backbar is made up of individual mantels John Jarecki found in antique stores and fitted together.  Dining tables are made from old chestnut barn wood converted into tabletops.  Original brick walls lend a historic note and light from the storefront windows afford diners a view of the activity on King Street.  The rest of the décor is pretty too.  Will guys go for the fabric-covered banquettes, candlelight and beautiful new bar?  Or will they eschew such decorative niceties?  Will they even notice?  On the night I visited it seemed they would.  A table of coed league soccer players were enjoying beers and a tableful of dishes after a game, and I ran into a group of tastemaker friends at the bar who told me they meet there regularly.  Who knew?

The food is still American Casual, but more flavor forward with generous servings, and quite affordable.  Late last summer, Chafik Hocine was called in as consulting chef.  Hocine’s  menu is heavily influenced by his Northern African roots and informed by traditional French cuisine and exposure from his travels to Vietnam, China, South Africa and Morocco.  A native of Kabylie, Algeria, Hocine grew up in a small, self-contained mountain town, where he learned the value of incorporating fresh, locally-sourced ingredients into his dishes as well as creative improvisation.

Fried crab deviled eggs

Though you can still order full-sized entrées – a gorgeous seafood stew chockfull of half a lobster, shrimp, clams and mussels, or steak frites, a 10-ounce strip steak with house cut French fries – I chose a delicious braised lamb ragout on pappardelle that was sheer bliss.  And though the décor now speaks to fancier dishes, I think the more successful dishes will be generously-portioned starters like Crabcake on Brioche, Fried Crab Deviled Eggs, and a delectably smooth chicken liver paté with accompaniments.  Burgers made with dry-aged beef from Roseda Farms, and a Rolled Oat Mushroom burger for vegetarians (hold the gruyére for vegans), six kinds of salads and snacky things like pulled pork nachos, fried quail with spiced cauliflower purée, and mussels four ways.  All dishes are suprisingly well-priced.

Duck breast with fingerling potatoes and Swiss chard

Cocktails are listed as ‘Fun’ or ‘Fancy’ indicating an awareness of the mix of patrons the restaurant expects to please. “Black Betty’, in the Fun category,  is only available after midnight with a limit of two per customer.  I don’t claim to know what that is all about, but it could prove interesting.  The cocktail menu rotates ,and I noticed a recent Spring drink called Pixie Rainbow Fancy Bubbles with edible glitter, house-made flavored sugar cube, bubbly and Green Hat gin.  Send in the unicorns!  This sounds magical!


On a chilly evening, I opted for the Hot Buttered Scotch made with Glenlivet Founders Reserve (It can also be made with Captain Morgan Spiced Rum), just the thing to warm the cockles of your heart.

Cheesecake Mousse Brûlée

Most impressive about this centrally located spot on Old Town Alexandria’s King Street, are the large portions and charming, cozy ambiance, and there seems to be something on the menu to satisfy “fun” or “fancy” tastes.

The Light Horse – 715 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.

Urbano 116 Helmed by Mexican Culinary Royalty

Lucha masks at Urbano 116

I am mad as a wet hen.  Shortly after its opening, a well-known local restaurant critic trashed this restaurant, complaining about the cuisine, that food came out too fast for his liking (usually the complaint is the other way round), and thus defiling a celebrated Mexican chef’s reputation.  It was totally unwarranted, and I couldn’t disagree more.  As a testament to its success, the place has been packed with waiting lines of up to an hour on weekends.  Thankfully, they take reservations.

First off, this is not your mother’s taco joint, though tacos are served.  It’s serious Mexican cuisine, with moles that take up to three days to prepare and the use of unique ingredients like the unusual chicatana ant sauce served with tiradita pork belly.  Organic huitlacoche (a delicacy often described as ‘Mexican truffle’) is used in cooking, and five varieties of corn are flown in direct from Mexico and ground on site.  The food is beautiful, fresh and authentic.

Executive Chef Alam Méndez of Urbano 116

Oaxacan Executive Chef Alam Méndez Florián, who left Mexico to helm this new restaurant, is in the kitchen every day.  The award-winning chef doesn’t merely jet in to consult on the menu, he relocated here.  In Mexico City he enjoys a stellar reputation at Pasillo de Humo, a restaurant always packed to the gills with fans of his cooking.  Also noteworthy:  Alam’s mother is one of Mexico’s best loved chefs, Celia Florián, is the leader of the Slow Food Oaxaca movement and an expert in traditional Oaxacan cooking.  Celia, who often cooks with her son, taught James Beard Award-winning chef, Pati Jinich, the art of Oaxacan cooking.  Alam and his mother are considered Mexican culinary royalty.

Beef short ribs

I can honestly say that the seviches were the best I have ever had, here or Mexico, and you won’t go wrong whether you order the Ceviche Amarillo with rockfish, ginger, lime, orange, yellow pepper and pico de gallo or the Shrimp Ceviche with avocado, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, pico de gallo, chile de arbol, cilantro, and carrot (the finely shredded carrot adds a sweet balance to the acidity).

Salsa, chips and plantain molotes

A unique starter, Plantain Molotes, is a typical Oaxacan dish consisting of round balls of mashed plantains.  Usually the beans are inside, but here they are stuffed with goat cheese and served with a complex mole coloradito that incorporates roasted tomatillos, cinnamon, guajillo and ancho chiles, and bittersweet chocolate.  You’ll find deeply rich moles here that are epic.  Try the Braised Short Rib with almond mole, the tender beef falling off the bone.  For vegans, a Cauliflower Taco adds cashew mole.  Sumptuous!

Rockfish seviche

There eight types of tacos and two types of tostadas to choose from.  All are made with heirloom corn.  Happy Hour finds these yummy small plates at half price with gratis wafer-thin chips and smoky salsa.  Drinks are discounted as well.

Mexican chocolate tamal

Desserts are not a mere afterthought in this stylishly hip space that honors the tradition of lucha libre, Mexican wrestling.  (Be sure to check out the luchador masks, housed in glass cases.)  Chocolate is as revered here as it was for the ancient Mayans.  Try the steamed Mexican Chocolate Tamal prepared inside corn husks and served with mixed fresh berries, or the delicious Banana Mezcal Tart with its tender crust and cashew crumble topping.  A new Spring dessert is Mendez’s lip-smacking Trés Léches Cake.

Banana tart with cashew crumble

Urbano 116 – 116 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.


Who are we if not seekers of the hottest, hippest, edgiest scene?  We try.  The opening of DC’s Moxy Hotel brought out all the influencers and their devoted followers to this hip, new property.  When your lobby is half bar-half lounge with a dime store pony to ride, you have landed in the Moxy.

Billed as “Fun, Play & Scandal” the place was pumped when we were wowed by a fabulous entrance decorated with pink flamingos and a crowd that was rocking to the sounds of DJ Farrah Floscett.

One of the seafood spreads

Tables overflowed with huge displays of iced shrimp and oysters, sushi and sliders and a reach-in fridge filled with lobster rolls, sashimi, tuna tartare and morel-topped vegan cucumber rolls.  Hot pink rubber ducks (hot pink is the prevailing color here) stood guard over an eclectic American flag décor.

Massacre Megan inks a willing guest

Amid all the hubbub, celebrity tattoo artist Megan Massacre of Netflix’s Bondi Ink Tattoo Crew was inking a growing line of fans.  Paste-on tattoos were offered for those of us who eschew the permanent kind – or anything involving pain for that matter.  A glassed-off playroom in the upstairs loft space that overlooks the lobby, houses a giant Jenga, a foosball table and ping-pong.  Beside the upstairs bar is a romantically-lit niche for lounging that’s cordoned off by a beaded curtain.  It’s perfect for private convos… or whatever you don’t want to share.

Hitch a ride on “Trigger”

The hotel offers free wi-fi with plug-and-meet gathering spots, as well as a fitness center, a barista station with fresh baked pastries, craft cocktails and flatbreads in the evenings, and a pet-friendly policy.

Killer heels designed expressly for the Moxy

Moxy by Marriott – 1011 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001.


A night was planned to dine at Bresca.  Two couples who wanted to catch up and enjoy what has become one of the most popular restaurants in DC thanks to the culinary stylings of Executive Chef Ryan Ratino formerly of the briefly-open Ripple and a quaint country inn in White Post, Virginia.  Despite its single Michelin star and a plethora of praise-worthy reviews, all did not go as hoped for.

Reservations were made for 7pm and we arrived on time.  Cocktails were ordered.  Strangely, a martini ordered through the manager, arrived as a glass of white vermouth straight up – without a hint of gin.  After that was sorted out and replaced with an actual martini, we placed our dinner orders – or tried to.  At 7:15 they were out of the Rohan duck.  Little did we know that only four orders of duck are prepared each evening.  Okay, good to know.  Forgo the duck.

Scallop Mi-Cuit with leche de tigre pour over

The Scallop Mi-Cuit was heavenly.  Raw slices of scallop and cara cara orange supremes garnished with wild laurel and enhanced by a tableside pour over of leche de tigre.  Another dish that went quickly was Burrata & Winter Citrus, lively with cream-centered mozzarella, and prettily served with radicchio, herbs and flowers, and aloe marmalade.

Shaved Beef with fermented black bean and crispy tendon

We opted for an order of Seylou Bakery’s Einkorn bread with chartreuse (not discerned) and wild fennel butter – slightly licoricey.  This bakery makes some of my favorite breads, but the Einkorn is a very dense, fermented bread that, though delicious, seemed overwhelmingly intense for this refined cuisine.  Another starter, ordered by my Hungarian chef friend, was the Smoked Potato Pierogis.  These were not delicate potato-based, cheese-filled, prettily-fluted Polish dumplings, but were dense and dreary.

Tuna with sweetbreads, wild fennel and black garlic

Nonetheless, I had high hopes for my entrée – Tuna with sweetbreads, wild fennel and black garlic.  After all, my scallops were lovely.  Sadly, the tuna was prepared sous vide minus a char finish.  It tasted as if it had been boiled with no noticeable seasoning.  Yes, it held a rosy inside as sous vide promises, but it was utterly flavorless.  I was hungry.  I ate it.  The excited-for sweetbreads amounted to less than a teaspoon of tiny chopped up sweetbreads cooked to death.  Oh, dear.

Earl Grey Tea – a dessert of milk and honey sorbet, dark chocolate and Marcona almonds

Around 8:30 the music, already pretty loud, turned to hard rock and since we were already yelling across the table to be heard, we paid and left.  Would I recommend it?  Not as a complete dining experience.  Though I like Ratino’s creativity, it left us flat.

Bresca – 1906 14th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009.

Mosaic Central Farm Market Moves to Tysons/Falls Church with a New Name

Eco-Tote Bag with Vegetables and Root Plant acquisitions.

After six years of running a successful farmers market in Merrifield, Virginia, Central Farm Markets is moving their Merrifield location to the George C. Marshall High School at 7731 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA.  This location is closer to I-495 and more accessible for McLean, Falls Church, Fairfax, Vienna and Arlington patrons. The farmers market will be renamed NOVA Central Farm Market to better reflect the new location.  The new market will operate every Sunday from 8:30am till 1pm.

“Our Northern Virginia location was named a Best for Families Winner for 2018, by Washington Family Magazine”, says Mitch Berliner, founder of Central Farm Markets. “ We believe our new location is easier for parking and more centrally located for all of our Northern Virginia patrons”.

April 14, 2019 is designated George C. Marshall High School ‘Griffen Day’ and 5% of sales will be donated to the High School Booster Club.

NOVA Central Farm Market will continue to present the outstanding programming as it does for all of its farmers markets in the Washington area featuring lively music programs, chef demos, kids’ activities, pie contests and more.  Central Farm Markets will continue the food gleaning partnership with Food For Others and continue to host for free local non-profits serving area patrons.

Here’s a list of the providers and services you can expect to find at the new market:

Fresh Garden Strawberries and Basal Herb Rack


Angelic Beef grass-fed, hormone free, additive free, all natural Piedmontese beef

Catoctin Creamery – small farm raised cheese produced by alpine dairy goats

Hog Haven Farm heritage breed pork and market prepared breakfast

King Mushrooms – locally grown mushrooms, soup and other mushroom products

Liberty Delight Farms – farm raised beef, eggs, pork, poultry, rabbit, pet food, pet treats

McCleaf’s Market – vegetables, fruit, berries, jams, eggs, honey, fruit juice, fresh herbs

Metro Microgreens – 15-20 varieties of microgreens locally & hydroponically grown

Pleitez Produce Farms vegetables, fruits, berries, flowers, plants

Stonyman Gourmet Farmer – farm & artisan produced cheeses

Toigo Orchards fruits, organic vegetables, fruit butters, cider

Twin Springs Fruit Farm – fruits, berries, vegetables, fruit products, cider

Westmoreland Berry Farm – strawberries, blackberries, black raspberries, red raspberries blueberries, peaches, apricots, plums, cherries, various vegetables

Young Harvests – locally and naturally grown salad mixes and vegetables

Purveyor of Small Batch Gourmet Raw Honey from an American Beekeeper


Boso Foods – candied nuts, salads, vegetarian soups

Cool Mama gluten-free specialty granolas

District Spice – salt-free, handcrafted spice blends handcrafted in DC

River Sea Chocolates – bean-to-bar chocolate using fine cacao from small-scale sustainable farms

Foggy Mountain Pasta – fresh handcrafted pastas made from organic, pesticide and germicide free, GMO free, heritage grain, and stone cold milled flours

Senzu Juicery – cold pressed juices and nut milks

ShePeppers-artisanal pepper sauces and pepper products

MeatCrafters – locally produced handcrafted sausages, salamis & other charcuterie

Number 1 Sons – pickles, pickled vegetables, kimchis, kombucha

The Virginia Tea Company – herbal teas grown and supplied by local Virginia farms

Vale of the Blue Ridge Maple – Virginia produced pure maple syrups

Zayna’s Delight – handcrafted hummus, pita breads

Zeke’s Coffee – locally roasted coffee, ground and beans



Baguette Republic artisan breads, pastries and cookies

Little Austria – handcrafted, artisan strudels

Out of the Bubble Bakery – regular and gluten free cookies, brownies, cupcakes, cakes

Potomac Sweets large variety of pastries, confections, coffee cakes

Rumalutions deliciously light rum cakes in a variety of flavors

Savagely Good – pies, quiches, cinnamon rolls, gluten free products as well



DMV Empanadas variety of handcrafted empanadas

Messiam The Ethiopian Eatery Ethiopian foods

Old Smokey BBQ – smoked brisket, pork shoulder and chicken, carolina slaw, beans and mac n cheese

Ozfeka Catering – wide variety of healthy baked goods and mediterranean dishes

Poke Dojo-Poke Bowls – fresh raw salmon, fresh raw tuna salads

Sexy Vegie vegan & gluten free soups, salads and burgers




Calico Jack’s – handcrafted unique candles

Compost Crew – composting for homes and businesses

Fossil Rock Farm – handcrafted soaps-alternate weekends

Rockin Lizard Soap Company – handcrafted soapsalternate weekends

Seek Lavender dried Lavender and lavender products

Robbs Edge Express expert sharpening services for knives, scissors, and tools

YH Pottery – handcrafted pottery and table-top ware



Chase Your Tail Bakery – handcrafted, baked dog cookies, popcorn and other treats



Lobster Maine-ia fresh fish, shellfish, lobsters, lobster salads and rolls



Music by Roan Gap – enjoy traditional bluegrass and some crik pickin’!

Chef Demo Join chef Jonathan Bardzik for a taste of spring

Kids Club – kids decorate your own beach ball!

Free Coffee – from Zeke’s Coffee

Free Shopping Bags from Central Farm Markets

Nibbles and Sips Around Town ~ February 2019

Jordan Wright
February 2019

Flower Child ~ Dyllan’s Raw Bar Grill ~ CHIKO ~ Izakaya Khan Japanese Kitchen & Bar ~ Sen Khao ~ Mama Chang

February usually slows down a bit around here, but not this year.  Ignoring the usual dire winter weather forecasts (“One inch of snow forecast for our area!  Beware!”), new restaurants flung open their doors, and food events covered the landscape like swirling snowflakes.

With internationally-known chefs flocking to our area and East Coast chefs bypassing New York and Philadelphia to open outposts in our area, my hamster wheel is in full-on high-speed mode trying to keep up with all the excitement.

Flower Child

Wall mural of the iconic British model, Twiggy

This fast-casual spot from restaurateur Sam Fox of Fox Restaurant Concepts out of Arizona, is right on trend.  Plugging itself as “Healthy food for a happy world”, it offers bowl-style dishes along with grass-fed steak wraps, grilled sustainable salmon, kombucha on tap, herbal teas – iced or hot – organic coffee, and freshly squeezed juices.

The cheery, hippie-inspired, quick-order spot has plenty of gluten-free and vegan options with salads and wraps galore and, of course, the ubiquitous avocado toast – this version served with a poached egg on top.  Grains, nuts, and seeds add to the nutritious and delicious combos.  Expect to find kale and roasted cauliflower in starring roles.

The super friendly line cooks ~ Avocado Toast ~ Coconut water

Wine and beer are organic, but if you’re sticking to non-alcoholic try the coconut water served in a coconut.  Unlike the boxed version, this has an unmistakable island-fresh taste.

Vietnamese Crunch Salad ~ Indian Spiced Cauliflower with tofu

Breakfast starts at 8am and is guaranteed to start you off on the right foot.  Two faves:  Supergrain Oatmeal with warm date compote, bananas, toasted pecans and Greek yogurt or opt for the Blueberry Açai Toast with banana, Greek yogurt, sprouted almond, toasted coconut, flax seeds, oats and honey.

Ready to hit the gym?  Let’s go!

Flower Child is located at 2112 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20037 – Open from 8am till 9pm.

Dyllan’s Raw Bar Grill

The former Sea Catch opened last summer as Dyllan’s Raw Bar Grill.  Perched alongside the historic C&O Canal in the heart of Georgetown, it is now owned by Donald and Amy Carlin of Good Apple Hospitality.  Don is a former restaurant conceptualist for Stephen Starr who created Starr’s award-winning  restaurants and traveled the world selecting decorative antiques and collectibles for such restaurants as Le Diplomate.  Two experienced chefs, Executive Chef Neal Corman and Chef de Cuisine Darren Hendry, helm the kitchen and its predilection for seafood, both raw and cooked.  Oysters are from East and West coasts and fish is either tinned or sustainably caught.

Grilled King Salmon with ginger lime glaze ~ Ahi Tuna Tartare with Asian Guacamole and spicy fish roe

Before the weather proves more accommodating to canal-side dining, snag a table beside one of two fireplaces in the wood-beamed dining room and enjoy winter-themed cocktails crafted by Mixologist, Allison Boyd.  These drinks feature herbs and spices with house-made reductions and syrups.  The bar also offers a well-curated wine list of both New World and Old World wines from the major wine-producing regions of France, Italy, Chile, Uruguay and California.

Boyd’s winter libations include Fizz the Season made with cranberry reduction, Hayman’s sloe gin, Cappelletti aperitivo, Campari and fresh pomegranate seeds;the Georgetown Tea Party made with unsweetened iced tea, Sexton Irish whiskey, rosemary simple syrup, green chartreuse and a touch of lemon bitters, garnished with rosemary; and the To Be Peary made withBarr Hill honey vodka, pear purée, fresh mint leaves, grapefruit bitters and a splash of ginger beer. 

Oyster Stew ~ Oyster Stew

Want something to ward off the wintry chill? Try Somebody Sage Chocolate made with Italian wine, fresh sage leaves, warm bittersweet chocolate, honey, a dash of cinnamon and brandied cherry juice; C&O Cider made with apple cider, Traverse City bourbon, cranberry reduction, a dash of cinnamon and citrus;Yes, Jerez Hot Chocolate made with hot chocolate spiked with Brandy de Jerez, and topped with whipped cream; or Butter Conundrum made with Santa Teresa 1796 rum, warm spices, vanilla bean and maple syrup. Winter cocktails are available through March and are reasonably priced from $11 to $15 each.

A recent announcement reveals a series of exciting cooking and mixology classes – Cooking with Chef Darren.  Lead by Chef de Cuisine Darren Hendry, cooking enthusiasts will learn how to prepare some of Dyllan’s most popular dishes in the restaurant’s expansive prep kitchen. Classes are priced from $55 to $65 per person (all inclusive), and include a complimentary glass of red, white or sparkling wine, a welcome packet including a $10 gift certificate for a future visit, a Dyllan’s hat, and take-home recipe cards. Classes are limited to 10 attendees, keeping the experience friendly and relaxed.  Mixologist Allison Boyd will lead a series of cocktail and wine classes this spring. Beverage classes are priced from $35 to $45 per person (all inclusive) and include a flight, or wine, or two complimentary cocktails along with a collection of snacks and recipe cards with tasting notes. The complete list of cooking, wine and mixology classes are listed below.

Date Night – Craft Cocktails on Wednesday, March 13th and Wednesday, May 15th  from 7pm. to 9pm.  Part intuition, part science, Dyllan’s beverage team, led by Mixologist Allison Boyd, will share how to build the perfect craft cocktail.  Attendees can expect both learning and fun.  Tickets are priced at $35 per person, and can be purchased online at:

  • Shellfish Shucking on Sunday, March 24th and Sunday, May 19th from 4pm to 6pm.  Teaching the true technique to open the hard-shell beauties, participants will learn how to prepare shellfish for consumption, along with the differences between the East and West Coast oysters and clams.  Guests will also learn to make the popular condiments, including cocktail sauce and mignonette.  Tickets are priced at $55 per person, which includes a complimentary selection of 12 oysters, and can be purchased online at:
  • Wine Pairing on Wednesday, April 17th and Wednesday, June 12th from 7pm to 9pm.  Wine lovers will learn to swirl, sniff, sip, and savor wine in a scientific way as Dyllan’s beverage team, led by Mixologist Allison Boyd, by will teach guests how to read a wine list, understand flavor profiles and how to pair wine with food.  Attendees can look forward to a selection of Dyllan’s signature dishes perfectly paired to the featured wine and receive take-home tasting notes.  Tickets are priced at $45 per person, and can be purchased online at:  

Dyllan’s is located in Georgetown at 1054 31st Street, NW, Washington, DC 22207

A Quartet of Asian Hot Spots  ~ CHIKO, Sen Khao, Khan Japanese Kitchen & Bar, and Peter Chang’s Latest Venture, Mama Chang


CHIKO in Barracks Row

Casual is an understatement to describe CHIKO, Scott Drewno’s Barracks Row experiment in Chinese/Korean fusion cuisine.  Since leaving the now-shuttered The Source, Drewno has focused his attentions on experimentation using his many years of experience preparing Asian cuisine under Wolfgang Puck.  The tiny spot has five stools overlooking the open kitchen and a smattering of picnic-style benches with tables. We stopped in during Chinese New Year to try his version of Chinese roast duck.  Alas, there was some confusion over assuring the duck would be available and some promises it will be on the regular menu in future.


Though the website offers two separate seatings for dinner, reservations seem unnecessary as long as you arrive early.  We got there at 5pm when they opened and there was no wait, though we witnessed streams of customers picking up pre-ordered takeout.

The ‘Full Monty’ ~ Smashed Salmon ~ Cumin Lamb Stir Fry

We enjoyed several dishes from a menu subject to the chef’s whim.  Served in stainless steel bowls, we enjoyed the Cumin Lamb Stir Fry with wheat flour noodles and caramelized shallots, and Smashed Salmon with black bean butter, wild mushrooms and peas.  Unlike most Korean restaurants serving small dishes gratis with each entrée, side dishes here are all á la carte.  You can order each one separately or try them all by ordering the ‘Full Monty’ which includes Napa Cabbage Kimchi, Sichuan Spicy Cucumbers, Turmeric Pickled Daikon, Potato and Egg Salad, Chilled Marinated Littleneck Clams and Steamed Rice with Furikake Butter – the latter being our favorite of the lot.

This spring the restaurant will begin an ‘After Dark’ series of late-night guest chefs who, for one night only, will create new cocktails and signature dishes. The events will feature such chefs as Edward Lee, host of the PBS Mind of a Chef series and culinary director of Succotash with locations in National Harbor and Penn Quarter; and Carlie Steiner and Kevin Tien, co-owners of Himitsu. Check the website for dates.

CHIKO is located at 423 8th Street, SE, Washington, DC 20004.

Opens at 5pm.

Sen Khao

Sen Khao at Tyson’s Galleria

Sen Khao is the latest endeavor by Chef Seng Luangrath who also runs the wildly popular Thip Khao in DC and Padaek in Falls Church for Lao and Thai cuisine. Thanks to her efforts and advancement of the Lao food movement’s outreach, interest in Laotian food has continued to flourish in our area. Recently, Luangrath opened Sen Khao – a small counter-order, no-waitstaff spot – in one of the spaces formerly occupied by Mike Isabella’s food hall in Tyson’s Corner Galleria.

Chuenh Gai – crispy boneless chicken with coconut rice and pickled vegetables ~ Khao Piaka

For those of you who live in the area or, like me, who travel there to shop, it’s a fine place to experience Lao food without the lines at Thip Khao.  It is a spicy cuisine, which I like, but they will ask you what your spice level preference is, and you can certainly tone it down if you prefer.  For those who want to kick up the Scovill-level further, there is a condiment bar.

Sen Khao is located at 2001 International Drive, at Tyson’s Galleria Top Floor, McLean, VA 2210.

Izakaya Khan

In a small, non-descript strip mall in Annandale is Khan Japanese Kitchen & Bar.  Predominantly a hangout for young Asian hipsters, it’s known for cocktails, karaoke and a late-night crowd.  We got there during a snow storm around 6pm and it was fairly empty.

Pineapple & Coconut cocktail in a pouch ~ Vegetable gyoza

Vegetable gyoza, tonkatsu ramen with tofu and tteokbokki, a Korean stew made with chewy, tube-shaped rice cakes; green onions; and a topping of mozzarella cheese in a ridiculously spicy gochujang sauce that’s heavy on the gochugaru (Korean red chili flakes).  You’ll need a few of their craft cocktails to chase down the fiery impact. Mine was served in a pouch festively lit with LED ice cubes.

Tonkatsu ramen with fried tofu and hiziki ~ Budae Jjigae

Khan Japanese Kitchen & Bar is located at Seoul Plaza Shopping Center, 4231 Markham Street, Annandale, VA 22003 – It is open from 5pm till 2am.

Mama Chang’s

Peter enjoys a lighthearted moment with family and crew – Mama Chang stands to his left with his daughter beside her.

As Peter Chang continues to expand his culinary presence, he has returned to his roots with Mama Chang.  Last night I visited Peter’s latest location in Fairfax City and thrilled to a dozen different dishes that barely scratched the surface of an extensive menu.  ‘Changians’, named for his diehard fans, were out in force since Fairfax is where the Chinese chef began his new life after leaving the Chinese Embassy.  In those early days Peter was cooking undercover in different restaurants around Virginia and people who knew of his reputation followed him through a loosely organized underground network.

Since then, he has created a burgeoning empire of restaurants that reflect his many years of experience in the preparation of regional, authentic Chinese cooking.  This newest venture, steeped in traditional Hunan and Szechawan cuisine, pays tribute to the Chang women and reflects the heritage, home-style recipes from his mother, grandmother, his world-famous pastry chef wife, Lisa, and his daughter, Lydia.

Peter Chang preparing the fish balls for opening night guests ~ Roast duck ~ Opening night friends and family enjoy the spicy cauliflower

Some of his signature dishes are Smoked and Cured Platter with Smoked Chicken, Smoked Sausage, Cured Fish, and Sweet and Sour Pickled Cabbage, Stir Fried Braised Pork Belly with Deep Fried Green Pepper, and Tea Braised Egg Pork Belly Stew with Bean Curd.  I will report back after a return visit to experience some of the other dishes in this modern, light-filled spot designed by notable DC architects, the Nahra Design Group.  Looking forward to sampling the hot pots, noodle dishes and the upcoming debut of dim sum brunch.

Mama Chang is located on 3251 Old Lee Highway, Fairfax, VA 22030.