Friday, June 20, 2008

Noodles and Sympathy

West End and Dupont Dwellers will have to forgive me for stating the obvious, but Larry La's Meiwah deserves the praise both for its food and its service.

Last night three women made their way up New Hampshire Avenue, after a much needed glass of chilled white wine. Determining who had the worst day would surely end in a draw. The time was 10.15, and while there are many wonderful late night purveyors in Dupont (Alberto's and Zorba's, to name a few), D. had her heart set on Meiwah, a quintessential neighborhood restaurant: not trendy or new but but with a varied menu of great dishes simply prepared to showcase the clean bright flavors of its ingredients. As we approached the restaurant I saw that it's cheerful neon was still on and there were still some patrons. As D. reached for the door I saw the schedule, which said that the restaurant closed at 10.30 PM. Having the habit of eating dinner very late, I've gotten used to the "Sorry, Kitchen Closed" routine. I usually keep myself from glaring at the hostess by remembering that the kitchen and wait staff has been at it since 2.00 PM and probably want to cash out and head home. D. and S. asked for a table and I tried to figure out an alternative on the fly.

I was very suprised when they gave us a table. I could see some of the prep cooks out of the corner of my eye, and to my mortification a steadily emptying dinning room. The hostess flipped the sign to closed. We ordered dumplings, an entrée and two vegetable dishes, sharing all of them. The dumplings came out first, their crackled pan-fried skins covering firm and savory meat. The bok choy was as firm as leeks and the mushrooms that topped them, superb in their oyster sauce. The spinach was not waterlogged and the fresh garlic gave it a great kick. Our entrée was Beef Chow Foon, a staple Cantonese dish made up of stir-fried beef, hefen (wide rice noodles) and bean sprouts.

As we ate, our waitress refilled our glasses several times and asked us if everything was alright and if we needed anything else. No one started cleaning up, turned the music off, or made us order everything at once, all (much deserved) punishments to late patrons. We were such a tired looking trio that the wait staff could probably tell that the meal could be the only good part of our soon to be over day, and they took great strides to make sure it was. Tasty as the oyster sauce was, it was their kindness that made the meal truly wonderful.

Meiwah Restaurant
1200 New Hampshire Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036
Meiwah on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Food & Friends

Food & Friends is hosting their 18th Annual Chef's Best Dinner & Auction on Monday, June 16th. Featuring 60 of the region's brightest culinary stars, guests will enjoy innovative, one-of-a-kind tasting opportunities at the Hilton Washington and have the chance to bid on exciting live and silent auction items.

In celebration of Food & Friends' 20th Anniversary year, the organization is pleased to welcome comedienne Suzanne Westenhoefer, who has been featured on Bravo, VH1 and in notable stand-up venues across the country.

A Washington tradition for 18 years, Chef's Best raises critical funds for men, women and children facing HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses in the District of Columbia and 14 counties in Maryland and Virginia. The only agency in the region to provide these life-sustaining services, Food & Friends hopes that you'll join them for their signature event.

VIP Reception at 5:30pm. Doors Open at 6:30pm.

Contact for Media: Lisa Butenhoff Bandera,

Contact to Purchase Tickets: Dan Bushey,, 202.269.6826

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

An Evening with Oliver Friendly

Upon meeting Oliver Friendly, you get the sense that he could have been many things: a salesman, an actor, a lobbyist, a teacher, a PR executive; anything that would have allowed him to thrive as the center of attention. But this graduate of L’Academie de Cuisine loves food, and he enjoys taking care of people. Thus, a natural-born entertainer turned his attention to cooking.

On a rainy Sunday night a few weeks ago, J. hosted a private cooking lesson for 4 friends. Oliver brought all of the ingredients and cooking equipment and showed remarkable resourcefulness when he had to make do in a kitchen that is fairly well-stocked but hardly ever used. I had given him some preferences, but left the menu planning up to him. Our three-course dinner featured a salad with heirloom tomatoes and a living lettuce, heritage pork with fingerling potatoes and asparagus, and a simple chocolate mousse with strawberries. All of the ingredients come from the farmer’s markets in the Washington, D.C. area.

It sounds a bit cliché these days but there is a lot to be said for respecting the ingredients. Oliver’s demonstration (it could have been a class if we had been more gun-ho about participating, but it was a weekend and we were delighted to have somebody else do the work for a change) was all about the stories behind the ingredients that made up our meal. It is a truth universally acknowledged but seldom discussed that most food comes from living, breathing beings, and that the lives that they lead, however short or utilitarian, directly impact the food we eat, be it its taste, texture, price, or overall health.

The evening was well-paced and we were asked to pinch, smell, blanche, and even taste. He told us what he was doing and why he was doing it at every moment. The techniques were simple – he wasn’t out to impress us, but rather to make sure that we deemed food that doesn’t come from a packet or comes from a professional kitchen accessible. I don’t see myself making a prep list anytime soon, but taking the time to cook and enjoy the fruits of your land, especially in the company of friends, is something to smile about.

Oliver Friendly
Personal Chef
Eat & Smile Foods
(202) 270 1018