Sunday, March 29, 2009


If you needed another reason to patronize Rob Kingsbury's DC location, these come straight from Paris to show cupcakes who's boss. The classic pistachio is crisp, while the salt caramel is the alfajor's sophisticated cousin. $2 each.

Artfully Chocolate Kingsbury Confections (ACKC) view menu
1529 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20005

ACKC on Urbanspoon


In the four years I've lived in the District, the only events that have matched the blooming of the sakura trees as a metropolitan obsession are the birth of Tai Shan and certain episodes of ObamaMania. Maybe it's the onset of warmer weather (though this weekend begs to differ), the renewed promises of Spring, loveliness and peace that natural beauty can inject into our hurried lives.

Our local restaurants, of course, take note of this and make sure that we feast with our mouths as well as with our eyes.

Chef Peter Shaffrath at the Hay Adams Hotel, across from the White House (where the Japanese Magnolias are currently blooming) has put together a five-course degustation menu of classic Japanese dishes ($60 per person, $90 with wine pairings) including miso soup, mushroom salad, short ribs, and a green tea sorbet.

The folks at Buzz, in Alexandria, are featuring Cherry Blossom cupcakes. They sell out every day, so get there early.

In Japan, Sakura viewing often involves sake or plum wine as a means to complement the experience. The National Park Service won't let you get away with it, but you can saunter over to the Kimpton Restaurants for some great cocktails:

- Firefly, in Dupont Circle, is featuring the "Sakura", made with cherry vodka, elderflower liquor, fresh grapefruit and white wine ($12.50). and The “Cherry Bomb,” made with cherry brandy and sparkling wine is also available for $9. The bar will also serve Hanami Ale for $6, a seasonal beer from Smuttynose Brewery made with natural cherry juice.

- Poste, in Penn Quarter, will be serving the Cerise en Fleur which is made with Skyy Infusions Cherry Vodka, shochu, St. Louis Kriek Lambic, aloe vera juice, and fresh lemon (available for $11). In the dining room, Chef Rob Weland, to my utter delight, will be serving cherry macaroons along with his petit fours.

- Urbana, in Dupont Circle, will be featuring a Cherry Sour ($11), which is made with vanilla infused Basil Hayden bourbon, sour cherry purée, sour cherry juice, sours mix and a cherry cotton candy garnish, crafted in the restaurant kitchen.

- Domaso, in Rosslyn, will take advantage of its view and serve "Bubbly Blossom" on the terrace. The drink, available for $11, is a mix of Prosecco and Campari.

- Jackson 20 in Alexandria will be serving Bloom ($11), made with Maker's Mark, elderflower liqueur, Heering cherry liqueurs, fresh squeezed lemon juice and guava nectar, muddled ginger and grenadine sink. The kitchen will also offer a 3-course cherry blossom inspired menu for $50. The menu will feature cherry elements throughout including pan-seared scallops with almond and cherry chutney and butter pan sauce.

- The Grille at Morrison House also in Alexandria, will offer an appetizer of cherry wood and tea smoked duck breast with frisée and cherry blossom salad in a cherry vinaigrette ($16).

Any more Cherry-Blossom honoring eats or drinks? Send us an e-mail of post it in the comments section.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Local Artists and Restaurateurs Turn a Glass of Water into Something Beautiful

Sometimes DC has a philanthropic buzz few cities can match. On March 24, UNICEF’s Tap Project held a fundraiser and gallery opening, “Something Beautiful,” to provide clean water for children in developing countries. Local artists decorated Pepco’s Edison Place Gallery on Eighth Street NW with a lovely array of paintings, mosaics, photographs, and sculptures depicting glasses of water. The artists ranged from those affiliated with the Corcoran School of Art to children at the SAIL (School for Arts in Learning) Public Charter School. Communications firm GMMB helped UNICEF promote the event pro bono at the donated gallery space. Attendees bid for works of art in a silent auction that took place at the end of the evening. All proceeds from the auction will go to water and sanitation programs in the countries and areas UNICEF has designated as most in need.

I wandered the sp
ace with a large crowd of artists, foodies, and other interested patrons throughout the evening. We enjoyed fresh glasses of water garnished with fruit while drinking in works of art and presentations and performances by video artists Dissident Display and local water harpist Jayme Turner. Some adventurous attendees created their own art at a painting and drawing station. This event was unique among American cities raising money for the TAP Project.

During World Water Week, March 22-28, over a hundred DC restaurants encourage patrons to donate $1 or more for a glass of clean tap water. Every dollar raised provides a child with clean drinking water for 40 days. With his wife, Polly, Chef Robert Wiedmaier, owner of local restaurants including Brasserie Beck, Marcel’s, and Brabo’s, has helped raise enthusiasm among DC restaurateurs for the Tap Project. Meshelle Armstrong, manager of Restaurant Eve, and Ruth Gresser, owner-chef of Pizzeria Paradiso, also publicized the project. After starting to participate in 2008, our increasingly vibrant restaurant culture comes in second only to New York City in the number of American dining establishments taking part in 2009. Please see this list of participating restaurants. Click here for more information about Tap DC and an innovative video PSA.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The New Deal(s)

I am very glad to see that popular restaurants are doing their part by putting together budget-friendly (or at least friendlier) options for weary would-be diners.

For the localvores, Restaurant Nora is doing "Retro Prices" on their entire menu, as well as a new late-night menu from 9.15 to close (10 PM Monday-Thursday and 10.30 on Friday and Saturday) with 2 courses for $32. The starter course will be a choice between the Daily Soup, Nora's Romaine, Radicchio Caesar Salad; and Nora's Signature Pate. The main course choices are Roasted Amish Chicken, Sustainable Salmon and a Vegetable Risotto (the menu is subject to change according to the availability of the ingredients).

April fools will have something to celebrate at SweetGreen's new Dupont Circle Location (1512 Connecticut Avenue, NW just north of the circle), opening on April 1st from 12 Noon to 4 PM, offering guests a choice of a featured salad, wrap or Sweetflow yogurt at a discounted price of just $1 each (one per customer). Additional products can be purchased for full price, and proceeds from opening day will be donated to Spoons Across America, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating children, teachers and families about the benefits of healthy eating.

For Brits, or people that like to eat like them, Commonwealth Gastropub in Columbia Heights has introduced two quick, value-oriented lunches available Monday through Friday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. The Local includes a half of the daily sandwich, a mug of house-made soup or a house salad and half a pint, tea/coffee or soft drink for $10. The Ploughman’s Lunch, inspired from the bygone era, when a ploughman packed his lunch with classic readily available items that would keep while he worked in the fields. The lunch includes surrey ham, wildflower cheddar, pickled cabbage, apple and freshly baked bread for $9.

D'Acqua, by the Navy Memorial, is supporting Oenophiles with its Wine Lover’s Wednesday. The restaurant's entire list of wines by the bottle are half off all day and evening every Wednesday beginning on March 11, 2009.

Any other deals? Post them in the comments section or send us an e-mail.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Brunch Eclectic

Last week I was invited, along with other card-holding members of the unofficial press, to sample the new items on the menu for 1905, a restaurant that opened a few months ago in Shaw/U Street down the street from the fabled Etete. Though the awning that covers the door to the small building that houses both 1905 and a (independently owned and managed) wine store is festooned with the street number (which also happens to be the named of the restaurant, flanked by two skeleton keys) you'll stop for a moment at the base of the stairs, wondering what you're in for. Like Darlington House in Dupont Circle, 1905 feels intimate, as if you are being hosted by your hippest acquaintances. You'll see several decades represented throughout the dinning room (which features chandeliers and communal tables) and bar, as well as aged wood (the benches came from a locker room in the University of Maryland) that compliments, rather than compete with, the houses outside. Unlike its spiritual cousin, the kitchen, with Chef Jose Sanchez at the helm, concentrates on the food and its ingredients. The decoration compliments, rather than makes up for, the eclectic menu.

Since it was Happy Hour after all, I started with Peared Up, a pear cocktail - vodka, ginger liquor and fresh lemon - that was refreshing and aromatic without being overwhelming. I've had pear-infused vodka with ginger ale before, but the ginger liquor gave it a lot more depth, with the slight bitterness bringing out the acidity in the pear. We started the tasting with two items from the brunch menu - a Spanish tortilla (and egg and potato pie, made on a skillet and without crust) topped with some aioli, a garlic and olive oil dressing that sometimes includes egg. The tortilla is served cold, as a tapa would, and while I understand some people may not want something cold for brunch, it seems like the perfect choice to bridge the divide between breakfast and lunch. The following course, the Creole Benedict, was my favorite dish of the evening: a poached egg over a Cajun fried rice cake topped with a crawfish hollandaise sauce. There are a lot of Cajun elements in the 1905 menu, and this is a very successful dish: the rice cakes were steaming hot, and the rice within kept its firm texture giving it a great counterpoint to the soft, and not as hot, egg. The hollandaise gave it a lot of heat without being overpowering. The egg was perfectly poached - though I do not mind some yolk, runny eggs would have ruined the crisp of the rice cake.

We were also served selections from the dinner menu. The soup course was fantastic - heat from Cajun spice paired with the creaminness of a crawfish bisque, which reinforced the New Orleans connection. The Pan Roasted shrimp, seasoned with Espelette pepper, is the kitchen's take on shrimp and grits - though the grits are replaced by creamy coconut crab rice, a very interesting re-imagining of the starch: the texture was there, but the taste was augmented by the pungency of the crab and the slickness of the coconut. The Angus burger was very well done, and centered on smokey flavors - gouda cheese and a red onion marmalade. The roasted beet salad had prime ingredients and look beautiful, but the arugula and goat cheese combination is something we've all seen before. The ox-tail ragout came out of left field for me - though the fettucini was great in both taste and texture (hand rolled in the kitchen, with saffron for taste and color) and patrons will always find comfort in pasta, it wasn't as connected to the rest of the menu, and lack the heat I had come to expect from the kitchen. For dessert we had chocolate bread pudding with vanilla ice cream, a very successful layering of hot and cold and dark and light.

1905 won't stay a secret for very long, but while it does, you'll feel like you've been handed the keys to the very cool kingdom.

(Photos courtesy of Dakota Fine)

1905 Restaurant
1905 9th St NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 332-1905 view menu
1905 on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Oodles of Noodles

These are scary times, the kind that inspire people to dare and endure. With all due respect to Mr. Churchill, comfort is not an alternative, but rather a necessity. I met M. for dinner, and our combined requirements where a U street location and a lot of heat, in both temperature and spice. DC Noodles, a funky eatery with a noodle-centric menu is a great alternative for people who love strips or strings of unleavened dough, but don't want to commit to a particular Asian cuisine.

The locale is impossibly bright - one red wall, one white wall, and a black bar. The white, red and black palette plays throughout in the menus and flatware. The music is on at full blast: as long as you are in a two-top and don't mind casual bouts of yelling, you'll be fine.

Most of the entrees are $12 (with a $2 surcharge for shrimp or seafood) and are divided into wok, salad, clear soup, spiciy soup, soy soup, coconut curry and special noodles and dumplings - a veritable tour of Far East Asian cuisines. The dumpling selection is limited, but there are plenty of bowl offerings served hot, cold, in a soup or in a curry. Most dishes let you chooese between wide or thin rice noodles (vermicelli, similar to the one used in ramen or Pho) and egg noodles (hefen, used in chow fun). The portions are plentiful - you could try to take some home (I meant to!) or otherwise have a good, hearty meal. M. had the noodles in soy soup, wide rice noodles (very similar to Udon at a Japanese restaurant) with Chinese broccoli, bean sprouts, carrots, cilantro, spring onion and celery with chicken. I ordered the thin rice noodles in spicy soup with beef and meatball. The soup itself reminded me of the spicy peanut soup from they serve at Breadline on Tuesdays. The meatballs were small but plentiful, and the base had the consistency of porridge (bolstered by the texture of ground peanuts, incorporated into the soup). The chili pepper gave it a noticeable heat that concentrated on my throat - the noodles were firm but not overcooked, and the cilantro and spring onion brightened the dish. The garnish added great color contrast, and was quite tasty.

The full bar at DC Noodles offers several cocktail options and the usual wines by the glass, but M. and I stuck to sweet sake, served at room temperature (plum wine is also available). Desserts are not on the menu (I do not know if this is because the kitchen changes them daily, or they hadn't come up with them when the menus were printed). Our choices were mango with sticky rice and black sticky rice with coconut ice cream. If you like the coconut ice cream at Bangkok Joe's, you'll like this dessert, but what really sets it apart is the color - it evokes the scheme of the place (without changing the flavor) and the ice cream has the great meat and texture of an actual coconut.

A place after my own heart, and a wonderful addition to U Street.

(Editor's note: I did not have my trusty Lumix at hand and had to rely on my cell phone camera, hence the fuzzy pictures)

DC Noodles
1410 U Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009
view menu

DC Noodles on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 7, 2009

World Water Week, March 22 - 28

Lack of clean drinking water is the biggest killer of kids under 5. To help address this situation, UNICEF has launched an initiative called the Tap Project. Every year, the Tap Project hosts World Water Week. During World Water Week, which is March 22-28, 2009, restaurants in DC and across the United States will encourage patrons to donate $1 or more for the tap water they usually enjoy for free. Every dollar raised provides a child with clean drinking water for 40 days.

To learn more about the project, which of your favorite restaurants are participating, and other ways to get involved, please click here.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Brunch & Macarons

I am a big fan of brunch, but I am weary of Sunday buffets; the large spreads beg to justify the hefty price tags. I am not in the habit of fasting on Saturday nights, and I like to fight hangovers with preemptive after-midnight snacks. Unless I have out of town visitors who want to do the Gospel Brunch or the Kennedy Center rooftop, I prefer brunching a la carte.

An invitation to Sunday brunch at Meritage, located in the North Bethesda Marriott (directly across from the White Flint Metro stop) has me rethinking my anti-buffet stance. The dinning room is spacious and airy, the noise level lets you talk with your table companions comfortably, and the staff is quick to clear plates and refresh drinks. Located by the Montgomery County Bethesda North conference center, it is ideally suited to accommodate large groups.

Aside from standards (an omelet station, a carving station and a waffle station), the buffet items show a pride in local and fresh ingredients, including a raw bar. The chef also has a penchant for Eastern European influences: creamy and tart cheese blintzes, latkes with a hint of chives, pastries and savory breads. The hot food display included fish and chicken options, and, a rarity for brunch, soup. The kitchen (you can see some of the cooks behind the main thoroughfare) puts great care into the presentation and replenishment of the stations - there were no neglected chafing dishes or dried-out food.

With so many brunch options available in DC-proper, what makes the sojourn into Maryland worth considering? The brunch is an exceptional value: $24.95 including a glass of champagne, mimosa or bloody Mary (plus tax and tip). The Meritage is also ahead of the curb in dessert trend. If you look past the chocolate fountain you will find, in unassuming glass bowls, pastel-hued Macarons, directly imported from Paris. The merengue-like confections are currently all the rage in New York (cupcakes have had their day). The little domes, decked out in the colors of Spring, are well worth the trip.

Meritage at the North Bethesda Marriott
5701 Marinelli Road
Bethesda, MD 20852

Meritage on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Dining Out for Life

Food and Friends is a Washington, DC, based nonprofit organization that provides home-delivered, specialized meals and clinical nutrition to people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses.

145 restaurants in the DC Metro Area are participating in "Dining Out for Life" event this Thursday, with a kick off event in the CommonWealth Gastropub in Columbia Heights from 6:00 to 7:30 pm. 25 to 100% of the profits of these meals will go to Food and Friends.

Pick a place, have a wonderful meal and support a great cause. For the full list of participating restaurants, click here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Drink for a snowy day

I made a batch of these for Inauguration, and they go great with this frigid March weather:

Start with hot cocoa.
I prefer Mexican hot chocolate tablets - the kind that you melt into almost-boiling whole milk. My personal favorite is Popular, but that is hard to find in DC. Abuelita and Ibarra are available in many supermarkets, including Whole Foods and Giant. What makes this chocolate special? Reminds me of home for one, has an amazing texture, and has a strong nose of cinnamon and a touch of chili pepper (for taste, not heat). In a pinch, Balducci's and Whole Foods carry Mariebelle's Aztec Hot Chocolate (that is actually Colombian), which I've substituted successfully.

Pour into individual cups or mugs.

Add 1.5 ounces (one shot glass) of Kahlua for each cup or mug and stir.
Variations on a theme: Bailey's Irish Creme, Yerevan Brandy (5 years), Tequila (Aged).


Sunday, March 1, 2009


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