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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 www.Smithsonian.Catertrax.com 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
or
Sea Scallop Crudo
Bombay vinaigrette, green apple and celery 

Second Course
Heirloom Beet Carpaccio
roasted fig & aged manchego and vincotto
or
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
or
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
or
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
or
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

Dessert
Citron Tart
Luberon spice, lemon marmalade, buttermilk Chantilly, spiced sable and toasted meringue
or
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.

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