Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Food Day - Halloween edition

Boo! It's food day! Here's what's going on this last day of October:

Great American Growth: As Tom mentioned on his chat last week, and in Dish today, the Great American Restaurants group will be opening up another restaurant, their 10th, this time out in Reston. Named after corporate chef Bill Jackson, who is suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease, "Jackson's Mighty Fine Food" will be found at Reston Town Center - it's expected to open in September of 2008.

Two for the Times: The Old Grey Lady's food section has two really good videos today; for once I actually like Mark Bittman's Mimimalist video - probably because he's roasting bone marrow with Fergus Henderson.

In addition to that, Louisiana's hottest chef (sorry Emeril), John Besh, has a great video on how to make grillades and grits. It's a great video and you'll learn how to make a wonderful breakfast.

Old Wines, Young Sommeliers: This is a great article about the rise of younger sommeliers in Boston which I really put up to convince my friend Agatha to take sommelier courses.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pioneer Chef Passes Away

Sad news out of Philadelphia today - Chef Tell Erhardt, known to many as simply, "Chef Tell", died today at 63.

My current boss, longtime TV producer Jay Garfinkel, was one of the first to hire Tell, in this case for the program, "Evening Magazine". Jay told me that he hired Tell because he had a certainly flair and pizzazz that other chefs he auditioned just didn't have.

Chef Tell was a big deal in the Philly restaurant scene, and a TV chef pioneer. He'll be missed.

Now that's a spicy message board thread

For those of you who read on a regular basis, you know that sometimes things can get a little heated. Things have gotten so heated over the past 24 hours on the topic of Roberto Donna's Bebo Trattoria that Rocks himself had to step in and close the thread out.

I of course had to put my two cents in and threw this question out to the crowd:

Isn't the broader question here why can't Roberto find consistency? Anyone who has been to Bebo knows that he can churn out quality food, and occasionally the service can be spot on. But in a city where it's fairly easy to find a restaurant that can deliver, and deliver with a great deal of regularity, why can't Roberto do this?

I know this is a question that's been asked a million times, but surely it's within his capacity to do it.

So since the conversation is over - I'll throw this question out to you. Why does this seem so difficult for a chef who is so capable?

Last Supper

Time Magazine has an incredibly interesting photo essay on its website where it asks some of the best chefs in the world what their last meal would be if given the chance to plan their own menu.

Opening up the link - here - you'll be greeted by our very own Jose Andres - whose last meal would consist of:

"a barbecue he once had in an old mill in Tazones, a village in Asturias (northern Spain). It consists of warm tortillas and potato omelets, piles of percebes (gooseneck barnacles), llámpares (snail-like mollusks), and centollos (gigantic spider crabs)."

What would my final meal be?

Most likely some sort of massive sashimi platter - followed by a big bowl of Pho and finished off with a bowl of basil ice cream with fresh fruit.

But if I wait five minutes that'll change.

So - with that, I'll throw this to you - what would your final meal be?

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Meat Stands Alone

From the boards of, it looks like Michael Landrum of Ray's the Steaks and Ray's the Classics is opening up a stand-alone Butcher Shop and Grill.

Landrum has a job opening on DR for Charcuterie/Sous Chef whose duties include:

"the development and creation of in-house charcuterie specialties, management of production and retail butchery, and full Sous Chef and managerial duties over grill operations--basic baking and pastry skills are necessary."

I'm not quite sure where the location of the new shop will be, though I'm hoping it'll be in Northern Virginia (being completely selfish about it).

If you think you have what it takes, email Michael directly at:

Review - Little Fountain Cafe

It's often the best restaurants that hook you even before the first course is served. In the case of Little Fountain Cafe in Adams Morgan, I was hooked even before I took my coat off.

Little Fountain is towards the end of the Adams Morgan strip, and unless you're looking for it, you won't see it (honestly, even if you are looking for it it's still a bit hidden). Walking downstairs into the small dining room is like taking a step out of Washington DC and into (insert small town here). If you were simply implant me into the dining room and ask me where I was, I'd guess Homestead, Florida or Northampton, Mass before I'd get DC.

I can't tell you why this is so important, or why this made such an impression on me - maybe the cold weather brings out some sort of small town sentiment in me, but everything about the atmosphere screamed comfortable.

Luckily, the food, while not perfect, is good enough to complete the experience.

I started off with a potato and leek soup that, other than being a bit too peppery, was a great addition to the menu on a cold and rainy night.

I followed that up with a nice light salad with mixed greens, goat cheese, walnuts and beets. I don't know why, but beets are my new favorite thing - and this is probably one of the best uses of them I've had - it was so simple, but also so good.

My dining partners also had an overall positive experience. Steve's roasted chicken was cooked perfectly, but Agatha's vegetable lasagna left a little to be desired (Ags wasn't a big fan of the noodles - feeling they were a bit too thickly cut).

Leaving Little Fountain and walking up onto 18th St. was like waking up from a nice pleasant dream and realizing it was just that. Luckily, unlike most dreams, I know how to get there again.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Coming Soon (or eventually): Enology

Fresh off of the boards of, news that Veritas owner Adam Manson and his business partner are in the process of opening up another wine bar in a location yet to be disclosed.

To be called "Enology", which is the American English version of oenology, the food and wine will almost exclusively be American. Enology will serve cheese, charcuterie, chocolate, and caviar.

I'm making my first visit to Veritas this weekend and can't wait. From what I've heard about it, I'll be looking forward to the opening of Enology after Saturday night.


The location of Enology will be the old Zebra Lounge location right at Macomb and Wisconsin - near 2 Amy's.

Out and About

The Washington Blade, the DC newspaper targeted specifically for the gay and lesbian community just came out with its Best of DC issue, and I'm glad to see some of my favorites made it on to their lists.

Best new restaurant is Jack's Restaurant and Bar in Dupont Circle. We've had the chef, Hector Playuk, on the show I'm a producer on a number of times and he's always a hit. While I haven't had a chance to make it out there, he's a great guy and always brings fantastic food.

Best vegetarian food goes to Vegetate, where I'll be having dinner Sunday. Again, we've had Chef Caesare Assad on the show before (and hopefully again soon). Aside from being an all-around incredible person, she's a great chef, and I'm glad to see that she's getting the props that she deserves.

Other winners include Indique for best Indian, and Hank's Oyster Bar for best wine list.

Lunch at Les Halles

Hey, you know who I haven't written about in a while? Anthony Bourdain! Well this time I actually have a half-valid excuse for writing about him - I just had a fantastic lunch at Les Halles.

It's a slow day at the office today, so I decided to head down to Bourdain's place with my co-worker Julia in tow. Upon arriving we found a packed restaurant, but were seated only after a two minute wait.

Our drink orders were taken within minutes and bread was set down at the table. The bread was good portion of soft french bread with room temperature butter (the way it should be in my opinion), and it was enjoyed with a glass of wonderfully light Chardonnay.

For our lunch, I ordered the mussels with white wine, shallots, and garlic, and frites. Julia ordered the cream of mushroom soup and mac and cheese with prosciutto.

What really struck me about this meal, and what really led me to write about it was that about ten minutes after we ordered, the restaurant manager (I'd have to assume that's who it was) came out and told us that the mussels that were made for me weren't to the chef's standards, and presented us with a comped plate of frites.

First of all, it was an incredibly gracious gesture. Second of all, I love the frites at Les Halles - they're up there with Central and Palena for me.

When the mussels came out, they were perfect - and there were a lot of them.

Both of Julia's dishes were on par as well; the soup was very creamy and had a great earthy taste to it, and the mac and cheese wasn't at all greasy and were very flavorful.

We both left full, and very satisfied. This was my second trip to Les Halles, and I'm already trying to figure out when to go again.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A little ballgame and a little beer...

If I was cooler, or a Rockies/Red Sox fan, I'd be out at a sports bar somewhere with my fellow fanatics going nuts at every pitch.

But as we enter the sweet spot in the sports calendar (the week of the year when you have actual pro basketball, baseball, football, hockey and soccer, in addition to college football), I wanted to throw this out to you - my readers - which sports bars do you frequent in the DC area? Which ones serve the best food, have the best service and the best drink specials?

I'm personally a fan of Bailey's in Ballston - a decent menu and more TVs than a Best Buy make it a good spot. Summer's in Courthouse is also a good spot - again, lots of TVs, decent atmosphere.

So again, I'll leave it up to you - what are your favorites?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Best Commercial Ever

I've never heard of Taco Johns - there isn't one within two states of here, but after seeing this spot, damn I want a taco.

Your next course is brought to you by Microsoft

I admire Jose Andres for his cooking, his fantastic restaurants, and the way he's put tapas on the map here, but I'm not quite sure how I feel about the idea to possibily selling the naming rights to Minibar to a corporation - as reported in this Washington Post article.

So what do you think? Do you think this is a good business move, or Jose selling out?

Food Day!

Happy food day all. Here are some food stories of note from our fair city, and other cities around the country.

That's a spicy meatball!: From the WaPo's food section, it looks like Roberto is in for some competition in Arlington. Massimo Fedozzi of the Portobello Yacht Club in Orlando will see how he fares in an already competitive food climate when Domaso Trattoria Moderna opens early next month in the Hotel Palomar Arlington.

Fedozzi, the son of an up-scale food shop owner in Italy, will offer fresh made pasta and breads, and dishes such as jumbo shrimp with buckwheat polenta and hazelnut-chocolate torte.

Fabulous Fabio: As if we really had a doubt, it seems like Fabio Trabocchi is taking New York by storm. Tom made a visit to Fiamma to check in with the former DCer. It probably helps that he's simply transplanted his entire four star operation to a new venue.

Mad for Mollusks: It seems that oyster bars are all the rage in Boston these days. This Boston Globe article will show you where to go next time you're in beantown.

Trends vs. Tradition: It seems like DC isn't the only town undergoing a pizza revolution. Chicago is in the middle of one, and this article from the Chicago Sun-Times shows how the home of the deep dish is dealing with the thin crust trend.

Peanuts and Cracker Jacks?: Headed to Denver to catch a bit of the World Series? The Denver Post has some great ideas of where you can stop and get a good ole fashion hot dog.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Yet another thing I don't understand

I honestly didn't want to write about this, but the results are simply too ridiculous to ignore. Travel website and CNN Headline News conducted a survey of 60,000 visitors and residents nationwide of the top 25 urban destinations on a variety of topics, ranging from affordability to the underground arts community.

So where did our fair city rank on dining? 23. 23 out of 25. Take that Phoenix/Scottsdale and Santa Fe!

So back to why I didn't want to write about this - oh yeah, it's complete crap. 23? Look who was ranked ahead of DC - Orlando, Charleston, San Antonio, and twenty other cities.

Now, did we deserve to be number one? No. New York will, at least in the near future, always be number one. Most will argue that Chicago and San Francisco will fight it out for second and third - leaving fourth place (which is a lot better than 23rd) for DC.

But let's look at why we got such a low score in this survey. The category is broken down into several sub-categories, those include: barbecue, big-name restaurants, cheap eats, coffee, ethnic food, farmer's markets, and pizza.

Ok, so let's go down the list:

Barbecue (Ranked 25th): Yes, we don't have a whole lot of great BBQ here, but BBQ is a regional food, which makes this category BS. The top six cities are southern (including Texas) - surprise, surprise.

Big-Name Restaurants (Ranked 11th): Now this is what really gets me more than anything. How many James Beard winners/nominees does a city need to get some props?!? Orlando should be much further down than 10th, Philadelphia has no business sitting in the number seven spot, and Las Vegas shouldn't even count as a city - big chefs go there because the city is a theme park for capitalism and they want to make money (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Cheap Eats (25th): Again, ranked dead last in a category, this is BS. The people that they must have surveyed must not have ever left downtown - it's a big city (metro area) people, and the cheap food is on the periphery.

Coffee (18th): I don't drink coffee, so I can't speak on this - but my friend Marc always found a way to get coffee here. That's good enough for me.

Ethnic Food (9th): Ironically enough, this is one of DC's weaknesses. You have to go into MD or VA for a lot of ethnic food, but if you're looking at the whole area, you can find a lot of what you're looking for.

Farmer's Markets (22nd): Eastern Market (aside from Ben's) is what DC is all about. There are a number of good markets around here, and a lot of great farmers from the surrounding areas - 22nd seems pretty low for what we've got.

Pizza (22nd): Are you kidding me? 2 Amy's! Bebo! Comet! RedRocks! And the list goes on. This is probably one of the best pizza cities in the country right now - better than anything I had in 18 years living in Miami.

So where would I rate DC, if I was a one man survey? Probably between 4th and 7th - not knowing an incredible amount about some of the cities on the list.

So where would you rank DC among our nation's urban centers?


I'm really not liking Boston right now. The Patriots are rolling over teams like they're playing the JV squad (i.e. the Miami Dolphins), the Red Sox just came back from a 3-1 deficit to get into the World Series, Boston College is the number 2 college football team in the country, and the Celtics finally look like they can make a run for the east this year. Isn't that enough Boston? No, you also have to corner the market on massive walking turkeys.

Four foot tall turkeys! Where the f*&% are our gigantic mutant turkeys?!?

At least we know one city who will be eating particularly well this November.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Movin' on up...

I wasn't really a foodie when I was growing up in Miami, and honestly know very little about the food scene there. So I asked the Miami Herald's Victoria Pesce Elliott where she felt Miami fell in the grand scheme of things - here's what she had to say:

Victoria: I'm from Miami originally, but have lived up in DC for six years, and have become a bit of a foodie. I know that DC is considered one of the top food cities in the country, but where would you rank Miami? Aside from Michelle Bernstein what other chefs are noteworthy?
Anthony, Washington DC

Dear Anthony: Well, yes, when you switched zip codes certainly took a big step up foodwise. Miami has been flirting with becoming a top-notch eating city for years but the efforts seem to go in fits in spurts.

There certainly are some fine restaurants here and some great chefs but overall, the culinary scene is still ruled by the big fat steaks, caesar salad and fried calamari menus proferred to tourists at high prices.

Some other local chefs in addition to Michelle Bernstein who are deservedly getting national attention include Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, Cindy Hutson of Ortanique and, of course, Norman Van Aken whose new Town N tavern just opened down in Key West. Thanks for checking in,
Victoria Pesce Elliott

The tacos may be free, but the pepto bismol is still $3.99

Leave it up to the most ironically named Yum Brands Inc. to come up with a gimmick to give "food" away - this time at Taco Bell.

In a promotion called, "Steal a Base, Steal a Taco", when the first base in the World Series is stollen, Taco Bell will choose a Tuesday afternoon (Why Tuesday? How completely random is that?) in which people can go into any of the 5,800 Taco Bells nationwide and claim their free taco.

So I'll throw this to you loyal reader(s) - are you planning on claiming your taco?

Review - Port of Piraeus

There are two types of lunches in DC. You're either doing the expense account special at Charlie Palmer, or your joining the grunts in one of the many small delis across the city.

I'm lucky enough however to work in an office that caters lunch - but as we didn't produce any shows last week, we were left to fend for ourselves. In the search for something beyond pb&j sandwiches made at home as I'm rushing out the door, I ventured over to Port of Piraeus, a Greek deli on 13th and I St. NW.

While the menu isn't exclusively Greek (you'll find Liverwurst and a Cuban sandwich), you can pretty easily get your Greek food fix here.

I got a falafel sandwich which, while pretty standard, was one of the better falafel sandwiches I've had in the city (Better than Old City, not nearly as good as Amsterdam). My co-worker got the massive Mezedakia Platter, which had everything from hummus to olives on it.

While I'm back to eating for free this week, it's good to know that there's a cheap, and pretty good place like Port of Piraeus right around the corner.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Review - Velleggia's

If I could add one thing to the Washington DC dining scene, it would be a little Italy. A small neighborhood filled with little bakeries, mom and pop pasta shops, and pork filled deli's would really add something to our already great food town.

Yet, a little Italy just doesn't spring out of the ground overnight. In fact, if it's not already there, you're not going to get one at this point.

Luckily however, Baltimore does have one, and it's Velleggia's where myself and a group of friends ended up last night.

Entering its 70th year, this landmark was owned by the Velleggia family for 68 of those 70 years before being bought back in 2005 by Terry Coffman, a local real estate developer.

I don't know what Velleggia's was like when the family owned it, but I would have to assume that it was better and more well attended than it was last night.

The food, to sum it up, was medicore. It wasn't particuarly good, or particularly bad, it just was - decent.

A heaping bowl of pasta was nearly ruined by dry, undersized meatballs. A friend's bowl of pasta was swamped with pesto that seemed to be mostly oil, and the pizza seemed a little too much like that I can find at the Cosi's downtown rather than a neighborhood landmark that's been there for seven decades.

On our way out we were stopped by Coffman who decided to ask us where we were from and took down our email addresses on some business cards he had in his pocket so he can advertise the restaurant's 70th anniversary celebration this week.

I want places like Velleggia's to succeed because it's one of a dying breed. I just hope that Coffman can put as much focus into the food as he has into his renovations over the past two years.

Velleggia's Restaurant
829 E. Pratt Street
Baltimore, MD 21202

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Metrocurean Relaunch

If you haven't checked out Metrocurean during the past twelve hours or so, I highly suggest you give it a visit.

Amanda has added a third column and a ton of new features - so go on, check it out.

Really fast food

I'm not very well traveled, but I almost always make it a point to eat something while I'm at whatever airport I'm at - which is always easy considering my OCD gets me to the terminal usually hours ahead of time.

The Washington Post has a great article about food in airports, which are no longer just runways with terminals, but malls and culinary centers.

My favorite airport for food is National Airport here in DC - where I nearly always end up at Legal Seafood and sit at the bar, where the service is great and the food never fails.

Here are some others that are mentioned in the article (but with my own take on them):

Atlanta: I've been to this airport a few times, and never really had a memorable meal - just a few quick sandwiches from Atlanta Bread Company. I'll be back there next month for another shot.

Baltimore: I honestly can't remember ever getting anything to eat at BWI, though I've flown in and out of there a number of times, though they do have a new wine lounge called "Vino Volo" that might be worth checking out.

Cincinnati: I've been through Cincinnati twice (coming in and heading out) and I remember being torn between Gold Star Chili and TCBY. In the end it was no contest; how can you resist the country's best yogurt?

Detroit: This is one beautiful airport, and the the only place I've ever had sushi for breakfast (at Musashi Japanese Cuisine in Concourse A). There are cities with fewer options than Detroit's airport, which makes it one of the best in the country.

Phoenix: Again, the only place where I've had a burrito (I think that's what I had) at 7am - it was either at Blue Burrito Grille or Taberna del Tequila. I remember it being pretty forgetable.

South Bend: South Bend has the best bank of vending machines this side of the Mississippi - no question.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Review - Palena Cafe

Getting into an argument with the guy who signs your paychecks isn't a good idea. Though I knew this was one that I could easily win.

My boss, Jay, is an old New Yorker - and thus, feels that any restaurant located outside of "the city" is nothing short of crap. "Washington has the worst food in the world", he says - he should have joined me at Palena Cafe last night.

If what I had last night was the "worst food in the world", I should just quit right here - give up this whole food blogging thing and talk about seagrass.

But I'm quite confident in my judgement, and when I say that it's restaurants like Palena/Palena Cafe, and chefs like Frank Ruta, that make DC a first rate food city.

Again accompanied by Agatha, we showed up to the very conveniently placed restaurant almost immediately after it opened at 5:30 and decided to enjoy the weather and sit outside.

I was honestly shocked when we were given both the tasting menu and the cafe menu - and were told that we can order a la carte off of the tasting menu - what an incredible deal!

I however knew what I wanted before I even got there - a cheeseburger and fries.

So you're asking yourself right now; you could have gotten that at McDonald's? Yes, but no. This was honestly the best hamburger I've ever had (sorry dad!). How? Let me count the ways. First: the meat, cooked perfectly medium rare, was like eating room temperature butter - the texture, not even mentioning the wonderful taste, was simply divine. Second: the bun is homemade, and again, texture-wise went perfectly with the burger. Throw in a slice of cheese that's perfect in every way and a garlic mayo and you've got a wonderful burger.

The fries, usually a side, were a dish by themselves. At $10, it may be a bit much, but these just aren't fries - there were wonderfully cooked shoestring fries, onion rings, dauphine potatoes, and little slices of fried lemon that were incredibly refreshing. I'd put this up there with Citronelle and Amsterdam Falafel with the best fries I've had in the city.

Before the gluttony ensued however, Agatha and I both split a wonderful salad that was incredibly fresh and had some nice big pieces of beets - always a plus.

For Agatha's main course she got the Yukon Gold Potato Gnocchi off of the tasting menu. I've had my fair share of gnocchi in my life, but this was (again) the best. Light and fluffy to the point of rediculous, it went perfectly with the roasted purple cauliflower, honshiimeji mushrooms, Castelmagno cheese and aged balsamico.

To finish everything off, we split a concord grape sorbet with pistachio and Greek yogurt tartlette, and myer lemon confit. The dessert was incredibly light and very flavorful with a portion large enough to split.

If you're under the impression that DC is a poor food city, you're living in the past - in the time when you had to be buttoned up and on someone's expense account to get a good meal.

Palena Cafe is a restaurant with neighborhood charm and national recognition; and one that puts one more hole in the argument that DC has, "the worst food in the world".

Food Day!

Happy food day to you all - here's what's going on in the culinary world today:

Wolfgang Goes Wild: The Washington Post has a great interview with Wolfgang Puck in their food section today, covering primarily the subjects of foie gras and the (d)evolution of food tv. Wolfgang, is working on a project with the Disney channel to teach kids about cooking and food, had this to say about the current state of food tv:

"It's going in a way now where it's more like housewife cooking than professional cooking. When I did it four or five years ago, they said, "We don't want celebrities; we just want to teach people to be in the kitchen and show them how to cook." . . . [These days, the hosts] get a push-up bra and show a little cleavage and wear a tight sweater, and they think it's sexy housewife cooking."

I couldn't agree with him more.

Go Nuts for Nuts: So evidently the annual nut harvest season starts this month (who knew?), and you've got until December to take advantage. The Washington Post has some great ideas for what to do with the newly acquired bounty.

Chat with Chittum: The Examiner in their weekly chef feature interviewed Vermillion's Anthony Chittum. Not a whole lot from the interview, except that Chittum would like to open up his own restaurant (or perhaps multiple) in a few years. At the young age of 30, he certainly has time to do so.

This might be a sign...

I used to be a political junkie - now I'm a food junkie. How do I know that I've officially made the transition?

Because when I saw this headline on Drudge:


I thought they were talking about this:

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Review - Citronelle Lounge

It was a hard call. Spend an entire day's worth of pay on one meal, or play it smart, safe, and cheap.

But if you know me, you know which one won out.

I couldn't believe I was actually going to Citronelle...lounge. Yeah, I got cheap and decided to eat at the lounge - but in any other setting, food of the quality of what I had would have been served in a main dining room, and I would have been charged much more than what I paid.

First off, the atmosphere of the lounge is great. Very cozy with a very well stocked and nice sized bar.

It being a nice evening out, my dining companion, Agatha, and I decided to sit outside.

The tables outside, slightly off the main drag of M St. allow you to enjoy the weather without having to talk over ambient noise.

The meal started off with bread, the same bread that I had at Central - a good start. My only complaint here was that the butter, while good, was too cold and could have been softer. That's pretty much where to complaints end.

For my entree I ordered the fried chicken. What I got wasn't what I expected at all. Instead of KFC style cuts of chicken, I got a large serving of little spheres of perfectly cooked, wonderfully seasoned chicken breast. As I told my waiter (I believe his name was Saul), if KFC sold this, I'd go every day.

So what do you order with chicken? Fries of course. These were well seasoned and well cooked - though they could have been a little warmer, they were still probably the best set of fries I've had in the city.

Agatha ordered the mushroom cigars, which wouldn't normally be appetizing to me, but these were fantastic. Philo dough cigars filled with very meaty mushrooms, they were complimented very well with a nice ginger sauce.

Along with our entrees we both ordered the house wines (for me the red, for Ags the white), and both were very, very good for house wines - hell, they were good for a glass twice the price. Needless to say, Mark Slater knows what he's doing.

Between our entree and our dessert, Michel Richard came outside to look down from the outside seats onto the dining room below. The intensity that he has is quite impressive - he may not be the one doing all the cooking in the kitchen, but you know he's got a good handle on what's going on.

That handle was really shown by the creme brule we got for dessert. Unlike any I've had before, this wasn't in your traditional dish, it was free form, with a variety of toppings (for a lack of a better term) sitting a top. The creme brule itself was perfect, and each topping, from the sorbet to the fig to the little fruit chip thing, was very well placed.

Though it was only a first glance (hopefully of many), it's easy to see why Richard is seen as one of this country's best, and it makes it a lot easier to justify a day's pay on what promises to be an amazing meal downstairs in the main dining room.

I think it's time to switch to white...

Red wine makes a lot of people do a lot of things. Last night, it made me go out and buy a mandolin and a potato and make potato chips.

I used sesame oil and a plain white potato. I've never done this before, but I must say for a novice, I did alright.

After I took them out of the pan, I dried them off, sprinkled some sea salt and put a drop of wasabi paste on them for some added flavor.

While it was a fairly successful venture, I think I'm going to switch to white tonight - or else I might submit to that urge to go out and buy an immersion blender.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Ripert Era begins November 8th

According to his PR folks, Eric Ripert's Westend Bistro will open for dinner on Thursday, November 8th.

Much more so than Wolfgang Puck's restaurant, I'm very excited to see Ripert enter the DC scene. He's a three star chef for pete's sake - it's bound to be a success.

Food props for DC

After being almost completely snubbed in the latest issue of Gourmet Magazine, Food and Wine decided to give DC some props by featuring some of our best new restaurants - of course it helps when you've got DC's best food blogger writing the story.

Among some of the mentions are The Majestic (not exactly new, but new under the Armstrong clan), Oyamel, and Hook - click here to read the rest.

You had me at "complimentary pony rides"...

Pony rides? Petting zoo? Apple butter and pick-your-own pumpkins? Sign me up! Oh yeah, and there's food there too to sweeten the deal.

Clyde's of Willow Creek Farm, located all the way in Broadlands, Virginia is having a Fall festival on Saturday, October 27th from noon until 5pm.

Along with the festivities will be quality food - such as grilled pork loin sandwiches, bratwurst, and homemade pretzels

Give the good folks at Clyde's a call at 571.209.1200 if you want more details - this just might be the can't miss event of the fall (that involves ponies and apple butter).

A little taste of Mexico in Washington DC

With this year's Day of the Dead (a three day festival to honor family members who have died) quickly approaching, DCitizens will have some great opportunities to sample some true Mexican food.

One of Mexico's best - Chef Carmen “Titita” Ramírez of El Bajío restaurant in Mexico City has been brought to DC by uber-chef Jose Andres and has designed a menu at Oyamel that'll run from October 29 through November 3rd.

The most exciting aspect of Ramírez's visit is the free cooking class she'll be putting on at the Mexican Cultural Institute on Wednesday, October 31st at 10:00am.

Later on that evening (from 5-7pm), there will be a free tequila tasting at Oyamel, which promises to be a lot of fun.

This is Chef Ramírez's first visit to DC - I'm sure afterwards there will be quite a demand for her to make a return trip.

Review - Notti Bianche

I've always dreamt about opening up a little Italian restaurant. Something small, cozy, and serving something other than Olive Garden style food. It's not perfect, but Notti Bianche is the closest I've seen to what I'd want.

Located downstairs at the George Washington University Inn, Notti Bianche has only forty-two seats and has more of a feel of a large dining room than a restaurant. The bar is in the back, tucked away behind the kitchen - which allows the dining room to be a separate and quieter entity.

The kitchen, headed up by Brendan Cox (also of Circle Bistro) does a great job of using fresh, simple, seasonal ingredients to really highlight their strengths.

Among the highlights on the menu that I had was a black sea bass on a bed of crispy shaved fennel, and a massive (this must have been some bird) piece of foie gras atop pears with the best balsamico I've ever had.

Also, kudos to Pastry Chef Peter Brett who put together a great spread of desserts, including wonderful cookies and chocolates.

However, some things fell a bit flat - the risotto mantecato with Long Island duck "bolognese" wasn't memorable, and the organic vegetables seemed a bit random.

Overall there's a lot to like about Notti Bianche. The atmosphere is very comfortable and the food is solid - I think one of the biggest compliments anyone can give a restaurant is to say that they'd want to open a place just like it - it just might be time to open up a savings account.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Tom's 2007 Dining Guide!

I haven't had a chance to read through it, but click here to catch WaPo food critic Tom Sietsema's dining guide.

Review - Oyamel

They need to change the signs. Penn Quarter? No no's Andres Quarter. Jose Andres owns the place, and we're all just paying rent.

I had a chance to visit Oyamel, one of Jose's restaurants a couple times this week, and was not disappointed either time.

The restaurant is probably best known for Tacos de Chapulines, or tacos with sautéed grasshoppers. This, being the first time I've knowingly and willingly eaten bugs, was a bit of an experience, but a good one. The grasshoppers are very crisp and have a good garlicy/spicy flavor to them.

But the menu is much larger than bugs in a corn tortilla. Chef Joe Raffa, who is not only a great chef but an incredibly nice guy, does Moles very well, as well as the best guacamole I've had in DC. Not over-seasoned, the table side presentation is very well done and goes well with homemade chips.

One of the highlights of both meals was the dessert. I really enjoyed the Sopa fria de maracuya con sorbete de yogurt y epazote, which is essentially a cold fruit soup with lime yogurt sorbet. I had something similar at Jaleo and really like the taste and texture.

The second dessert I had, as part of a special menu, was a candied pumpkin with piloncillo sugar, orange, and Mexican cinnamon. Everyone at my table was really surprised by this, and it was noted that while it's a Mexican dish, we all would have been glad to make it for Thanksgiving.

A diverse menu, talented chef, and great ambiance make Oyamel an attractive option in the land of Andres - I'm looking forward to my next visit.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Closing Soon - Restaurant Kolumbia

This past weekend I mentioned to a friend of mine that I wanted to give Restaurant Kolumbia a try. I guess now I don't have much time left to do that, as according to Don Rockwell, the restaurant will be closing on the 27th.

Let me know if you're planning on going, or if you've been to Restaurant Kolumbia - I wouldn't mind some suggestions before I make the trip.

Opening Today: The Source

After much waiting, Wolfgang Puck's new restaurant - The Source, is opening today. Located in the Newseum building on Pennsylvania Ave., this multi-story culinary hotspot will be manned by Chef Scott Drewno, formerly of Spago and Chinois in Las Vegas.

The Washington Post Express' Melissa McCart had a very good article about Drewno. His presence is certainly welcome here, and I'm looking forward to giving this new spot a shot.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Food Day

Happy food day all. There's a lot going on in the culinary universe, so I'll just hit the high points:

Equinox Expansion: After contemplating a move to a larger location, Todd and Ellen Gray of Equinox have decided to simply expand their current kitchen onto their loading dock according to the Washington Post. This is the first in many steps to update the restaurant; others will include private dining areas and a fireplace.

Restaurants circle the wagons for holiday dining: A number of restaurants in the area have recently announced a special menu for the upcoming fall and holiday seasons. Some of the highlights amongst these are Chef Brendan Cox's $48 per person pre fixe holiday menu at Circle Bistro that includes such dishes as Sage Crusted Pork Loin with Cider Jus, and Roulade of Free Range Turkey with Cranberry Compote, and Legal Seafood's thanksgiving menu that replaces turkey with a baked stuffed lobster!

Two from the Express: The Washington Post Express has two really interesting food stories today: one about the rise in personal chefs for busy (and wealthy) professionals, and one about Taco Bell making a run for the border and opening up their first shop in Mexico for the first time in 15 years. Ironically enough, Taco Bell is selling french fries in order to seem more American.

Monday, October 8, 2007

At least he has his bags of money...

My condolences to my favorite shiny headed chef, Tom Colicchio, who lost his one star Michelin rating for his New York City restaurant, Craft.

The 2002 James Beard Award winner for best new restaurant nationwide was one of four restaurants to lose its one star status.

Maintaining their status from last year, Jean Georges, Le Bernardin, and Per Se were all awarded three stars, the highest level in the Michelin ratings.

To see the press release on the 2008 Michelin ratings, click here.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Next Iron Chef? The Next Show I won't be watching

So I just turned this show on, and I must say that this show is almost entirely unwatchable.

I love Alton Brown - Alton I love you! But why the f*%# are you up in everyone's business?!? Seriously, stop.

Also, the music - I don't know which music library they're pulling from, but it's way over the top - like making Iron Chef America look tame by comparison.

I know this is supposed to be horribly cheesy and in the same style as Iron Chef, but after watching a full season of Top Chef, I've got to say - I'm really missing Hung and Dale right now.

National Seafood Month at M&S

There are a lot of reasons why I like the month of October, but somewhere near the top of my list is the arrival of National Seafood Month. A number of restaurants will celebrate, but few do it better than McCormick & Schmick's.

I recently had a chance to go to a special tasting at M&S's K Street location, along with my friend Catherine, for their National Seafood Month menu, which is also designed to be heart healthy (something that's not exactly easy to find these days).

Included in the menu was a very good striped bass with udon noodles and a miso broth, and a albacore tuna steak with black eye peas and roasted red peppers.

I'd recommend stopping by; you and your heart won't regret it.

How important are we?

I think it's an interesting question - and one whose answer constantly evolving. Evidently we're important enough for the Wall Street Journal to do a story on food bloggers.

The story focuses on bloggers like me who primarily review restaurants, and the increasing influence we have on chefs and restaurant owners.

The story also highlights, and I believe is critical of, the practice of restaurants providing free meals to bloggers - even stating that one blogger doesn't take free meals anymore to increase the blog's credibility. Now I'll admit, I've gone to a number of free meals on account of my full-time job, with all involved knowing full well that I happen to blog, but eating free doesn't change the food. Free food doesn't taste or look any better. You can give me a free meal at Burger King and it's still going to be Burger King.

The article sites a Technorati stat that there are over 21,000 food blogs floating around out there. I think that number alone, regardless of methods, makes this community incredibly important, and indicates it'll be here for the long run.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Someone's got a case of the Fridays...

This next week is going to be tough - the show I'm a producer on is about to be Neilson rated and work is going to suck. What does that mean for the blog? Hopefully nothing, but I might only be able to get out a few posts during the course of the week.

In the meantime I have to give a big thanks to Amanda, the one and only Metrocurean, for including me on her Five Bites on Friday section.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Ok, now I'm confused

There's a great article in today's Dallas Morning News about Casey Thompson, one of the finalists on Top Chef, which ended last night.

Casey is the executive chef at a restaurant in Dallas called Shinsei. That's right, Shinei. It's a flippin pan-asian/sushi restaurant. Maybe I wasn't paying enough attention this season, but I don't ever recall her making a SINGLE asian dish.

I honestly expected her to have some sort of modern-American, play it safe type restaurant. Man oh man was I wrong.

Just in case you were curious - Hung doesn't seem to be at Guy Savoy in Vegas anymore. I'm not quite sure where he went - I'd imagine he's still jumping up and down after last night's win.

And Dale? My favorite. He's working on opening up his own restaurant in Chicago. This interview with him has some really great info on his past and his future plans.

One out and one in

Who's in?
Hey guess who I'm talking about? Anthony Bourdain! He'll be at GW talking about his show, No Reservations. General admission is $28, which is fairly reasonable considering you'll probably get a chance to meet the man himself. For details, click here.

Who's out?
I have a lot of chefs on the show I'm a producer on, and one of my favorites is Naomi Gallego, the pastry chef at PS 7's. Naomi will be leaving DC on the 20th to join the staff at the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin, Texas. I wish her the best of luck!

The Shameless Art of Self-Promotion

For those of you who didn't know - I'm a big flippin nerd. So that'll explain why I was really excited when this blog (yes, the one you're reading now) was mentioned in the Washington Post Express blog.

Honestly, I'm just glad that my hatred of cliched dishes such as tuna tartare is getting public notice.

But really, beyond all of that, it's cool just to be named in the same post as Anthony Bourdain.

What I'm Reading - Bloviating Musically

Now this isn't a food post, but it's one that I'm very happy to write. One of my good friends, Evan Tucker, who has taken a hiatus from writing, is back with a new music blog.

Called, Bloviating Musically, Evan will focus on classical music. A link to his blog can be found on the right hand side of this page.

Happy reading all!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

and the TOP CHEF is....


I'll be honest, he wasn't my favorite. And that chocolate cake at the end was the easy way out, but when it came down to it, he was the best up there.

The rest of them, especially Dale, will be very successful, and I really hope to see and taste where they go in the future.

What I'm Reading - Liza and Gary's DC Pizza Blog

I just stumbled upon this site and love it. There's been a lot of talk lately about pizza, and I really hope that Liza and Gary's DC Pizza Blog sticks around to cover this hot and cheesy trend.

Great minds...

After writing my post on overrated and over used dishes, I figured I'd ask Tom what he thought...I'm glad to see we're in agreement:

Washington, D.C.:


Are there any dishes that you've seen so many times on menus that you just wish they'd go away?

Tom Sietsema: Like molten chocolate cake? And tuna tartare?

Food Day!

Happy food day folks. Here's what's going on in the world of food:

Wanted: Anyone
I think the most important and interesting story in the WaPo food section today is a story by Jane Black about a critical staffing shortage among restaurant staff around the city. Uber-chef Cathal Armstrong is quoted as saying that the lack of good help is preventing him from opening new ventures, and is keeping new chefs away from our area. I really hope that this situation somehow resolves itself and the region starts to attract and retain lower level culinary talent so that our upper level culinary talent can continue to make this area one of the best to eat.

Iron Celebrities
There's a great piece in the New York Times about the rise of the celebrity chef culture and how chefs are more corporations than cooks. I'll have to admit, I get all kinds of excited when I see chefs I recognize, but we have to ask ourselves - at what point do we appreciate the glamour more than we do the product?

Sounds delicious
I'm not a huge music fan, but I'm intrigued by The Carlyle Club, a new restaurant opening up October 18th that will play big band music along with serving oysters Rockefeller and duck confit salad, according to an article in the Washington Post. Brennan Reilly, the brains and funding behind the idea owns Yesterdays All-American Cafe, in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and co-owns Gadsby's Tavern in Old Town Alexandria. James Bryant, an area native, will man the stove, fresh from the Dataw Island Club in Saint Helena, S.C.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Bourdain bashes boring food

So I couldn't go more than a week without posting something else Anthony Bourdain related - but from October's issue of Radar Magazine, Bourdain gives us his overrated menu, or dishes that are overdone and overvalued.

So what's on the menu? Such dishes as pea soup topped with truffle oil, cruelty-free Berkshire pork with shallot reduction and Yukon potato gnocchi, and of course, the chocolate martini.

While I agree with most of his entries (Unlike Bourdain, I think that you can put a crust on a piece of fish or chicken without destroying the dish), I think he left a few dishes off.

Below is my overrated menu. Let me know what you think.

Tuna Tartare (in its many variations)
Really folks, what percentage of restaurants in this city have a tuna tartare on their menu? Don't get me wrong, I like tartares, but tuna in general is just over done. Stick to sushi, tuna - don't get greedy.

Filet Mignon (Just for the hell of it)
I'm a big fan of filet mignon, but I feel as if you should only have it on your menu if meat is your thing. It's a great excuse to charge a lot of money for a cut of meat everyone knows about, but again, I'd much rather have a hanger steak and pay $15 less, or have another less cliche protein.

Double (or triple or get the point) Chocolate anything
Yes, people love chocolate. But do I really need a five pound hunk of butter and chocolate sitting in my stomach at the end of the meal? No. Any dessert I can get at Ruby Tuesday's is a dessert I can pass on.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Now I feel horrible

I really hate stories like this. Some kid, younger than I am, doing things that I wish I would have done when I was in school.

The NY Times ran a feature yesterday about Bryan Zupon, a senior at Duke University who has decided to shun college food and embrace molecular-gastronomy - turning his dorm room into a "restaurant" called "Z Kitchen".

This is something I would have done in college - but I always seemed to forget my Burberry polo shirt, pinstripe chinos and Duke flip-flops at home.