Walking down King Street on a warm, early summer’s evening after a good meal, I thought to myself, “Why don’t I come to Old Town more often?” You can wander in and out of shops, there’s no shortage of places to eat and it’s a nice little escape from downtown. It’s the picture-perfect Main Street and it’s only a short (well, when Metro’s working) ride away. My reason for being in Old Town Alexandria this particular time was to check out the new menu at The Grille with their new chef, Brian McPherson.
Move over, quinoa. Sayonara, root vegetables of winter. This bright salad recipe from chef Tony Chittum combines the sweet flavors of apples and dates, with the savory notes from blue cheese, farro, walnuts and brussels sprouts. It’s a simple and straight forward recipe, but elegant and filling. Click through for the full recipe.
Anytime a long-standing restaurant with an already stellar reputation “revamps,” I have to hold my breath a little and scrunch my face waiting to see what the outcome is. That’s not to say I don’t trust the judgment of the fine folks over at Neighborhood Restaurant Group, because I do. But there are so many variables that go into renovating a space and renovating a menu. The result at the new and improved Evening Star Cafe? Fantastic.
For starters the newly decorated digs are eclectic, funky and inviting. The warm yellow, textured wallpaper make this neighborhood gem feel cozy, while remaining completely cool. And I’ve already mentioned the mason jar light fixture in the back bar at the Majestic Lounge that I’ve fallen in love with. If you’ve been to other NRG restaurants, you’ll feel right at home in the new Evening Star Cafe.
Under the direction of executive chef Jim Jeffords, the Del Ray restaurant has definitely augmented its southern feel with dishes such as boiled peanuts, shrimp and grits and of course, a buttermilk fried chicken. I’d describe Jeffords’ menu as elegant southern with a twist–the portions are southern-sized, but the presentation is beautiful and nothing falls into the stereotype of southern food being oppressively heavy and over-fried. The menu is organized so there are a few snacks (think kind of like bar bites), small plates (appetizers), entrees and then there are sides available to share if you’re really craving more grits or sunchoke mash.
The first restaurant in the Neighborhood Restaurant Group got a major facelift over the last few months and officially reopened last night on December 8th. Evening Star Cafe now has a newly redesigned and refurbished dining room and bar which was led by Hailey Designs, LLC. The same company also designed Rustico and Buzz Bakery, two other NRG establishments.
The remodeled space combines retro furniture, such as chrome-accented tables, along with a double-sided banquet for a little bit of a 1950s diner feel. In the neighboring Majestic Lounge attached to the restaurant, staff and neighbors in Del Ray have donated trophies which line a case from the floor almost to the ceiling. When you go, also check out the cool lighting fixture made out of about 180 mason jars. Washingtonian has a slideshow with pictures of the newly renovated space.
In addition to a new space, the restaurant is now being led by executive chef Jim Jeffords who is incorporating a stronger southern flavor on the menu. Jeffords recently came from CityZen in Washington, DC. Some highlights on his new menu include a moultrie sausage dish, a risotto with housemade tasso ham, mustard greens, black eyed peas and parmesan, as well as a classic buttermilk fried chicken.
There’s no word yet on where the previous executive chef, Will Artley, has decided to go, though Twitter confirms he’s staying in the area.
Looking ahead to the new year, the restaurant plans to offer brunch as well as open a 2,000 square-foot rooftop garden where Jeffords will grow herbs and other produce for his menu with the help of Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture.
There’s an old friend in town who’s turning 20 next week: Pizzeria Paradiso.
Back in November 1991, the pizzeria opened its first location in Dupont Circle and over its history has not only revamped the original spot, but expanded to Georgetown and Old Town Alexandria. Not too shabby of an accomplishment for a local small business, right?
“When Pizzeria Paradiso was created, the things motivating it were community, laughter and tasty food,” said chef and owner Ruth Gresser in a news release. “We were all so excited when our first customers entered the restaurant a few minutes after we unlocked the front door. And now, we’re so happy to reach our ’20 Something’ anniversary so we can celebrate by eating and laughing with our family of customers and staff.”
In honor of its 20th birthday, the restaurant is hosting a week of events as part of their “20 Something” Celebration:
- Monday, November 7th – Get one large and one small pizza for $20 on take-out orders only.
- Tuesday, November 8th – Receive a 20th anniversary beer glass when you purchase a beer with your meal. The 8th is the restaurant’s official birthday.
- Wednesday, November 9th – Pay $20 for all you can eat pizza and beer (note: you can eat all the pizza you want, but there’s 2 beer maximum).
- Thursday, November 10th – Pay $20 for a small special pizza and an anniversary beer.
- Friday, November 11th – Your first beer is just 20 cents.
- Saturday, November 12th – Dine in at a location and pay just 20 cents for toppings (note: 3 toppings maximum)
- Sunday, November 13th – Round out the week with “20 Free Pizzas” Family/Kids Day from 1-4 PM. Kids can be part of a make your own pizza demonstration with owner/chef Ruth Gresser and the first 20 kid’s pizzas are free (note: Old Town location only).
Plus, Pizzeria Paradiso will be hosting a trivia contest on their Facebook pages (Georgetown, Old Town, Dupont) with $20 gift certificate prizes twice per day. And their lucky 2,000th Twitter follower will receive three $20 gift certificates, one for each location.
Congratulations and happy birthday to Pizzeria Paradiso for serving up tasty slices to DC for 20 years!
‘969 thanks be to cod’
courtesy of ‘apium’
There are plenty of benefits of studying abroad in England — lots of culture, lots of pints and you don’t have to worry about learning that pesky other language. It is not, however, known as a bastion of fine cuisine. There is an exception to every rule though, and for me the British food that I think of fondly is fish and chips. Real deal, fried to perfection, wrapped in a newspaper fish and chips. And I’ve found no better way to indulge my inner collegiate than to go to town on some authentic fried cod (albeit Irish) at Eamonn’s.
The Bellydance Superstars will be at The Birchmere this month for two shows – October 27 and 28 – with a new production called Bombay Bellywood. I last saw BDSS perform at the Lisner in March 2009, and it was an infectiously fun performance that had the audience shimmying in their seats. For those of us studying dance, it’s always fascinating to watch and learn from professional touring companies. I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ve come up with this time around, in a production that’s mixing Bollywood and Bhangra into the usual line-up of Egyptian Cabaret and Tribal Fusion styles.
One of the highlights for me last year was the whirling veil work of Petite Jamilla, and I was thrilled to get a chance to talk with her about the new production and what DC area audiences can expect later this month.
“We are really leaving our hearts on the stage,” she said. Continue reading
photo by author.
Alexandria got hit hard by yesterday’s freak storm.The worst hit area seemed to be the North/South stretch of Braddock Road between Old Town and Route 7. That stretch looked like it had been hit by a mini-tornado; trees down, roads closed, cars and homes struck. In the several hours it took me to drive home from DC last night, I got a tour of some pretty spectacular storm damage. Here are some shots I took that I think give a pretty good impression of how strong this storm was.
Stare in awe at the aftermath of nature’s fury.
Rachel: Well, I’m fresh off a stint in Nashville to audition for American Idol. It didn’t go my way but I learned a lot and am ready to rock out harder than ever before after being “cut” from the program before ever seeing any air-time. I’ve got a gig booked for Saturday night at the Tonic Lounge (located at 2036 G Street NW, near the Foggy Bottom Metro). I’m not the only entertainment on tap, several artists from the DC area will take the stage too. So grab a drink at the bar, stay for the tunes, and if you’re a Glee fan I guarantee a solid new cover added to my repertoire from the second half of last season’s show. Not gonna tell you what it is, you’ll have to stop by to hear it. Show starts at 8 p.m. with a $5 cover. I’ll also have albums on sale with proceeds going to the National Kidney Foundation in honor of my late father who received a heart transplant in 1999. Hope to see you there! It should be a rockin’ good time.
Patrick: Weeks of no social life ends this weekend. Noises Off! opens this Saturday at Keegan Theatre in Dupont Circle. As the stage manager I’ll be in the booth playing the role of incompetent sound technician #1. No seriously, come see the show and watch the actors freak out at me during Act III. The show will run through August so I hope to see everybody there eventually. While I’m running the show I’ll also be trying to figure out where to eat and drink before and after performances- anybody have any suggestions for places I should check out around 17th Street?
According to the City of Alexandria’s website, the portion of King Street between Janneys Lane and Russell Road will be closed from 3 pm through the evening hours today. Repair crews will be tearing into the street to repair a water main break that happened earlier during the morning rush.
If your commute takes you through that area or nearby routes, be prepared: all traffic in both directions will be diverted onto Janneys Lane to Quaker Lane to avoid the work area.
Any Top Chef fan knows that choosing to make a dessert as your dish often spells doom. The theory has held up with the first two eliminated chefs in the DC season. So what will happen when the chefs are challenged to bake? We’ll have to tune in and see but as you can see they chefs aren’t happy.
The contestants also head on over to Mount Vernon (or as they call it, George Washington’s house) for their elimination challenge, check out the video after the cut to see the contestants attempt to grill on GW’s lawn and hear how it’s so DC to head down the GW Parkway into Alexandria, VA.
Are you watching Top Chef DC tonight? You can check out my DC take on the show tomorrow but I also want to hear what the DC crowd is thinking about the show. Send me your Top Chef DC tweets (@dmbosstone) and I’ll feature my favorites in tomorrow’s recap!
I obviously think the world of DC, but there’s one thing I’ve always thought the metro area lacked: a brewery. There are a myriad of beer nerd restaurants, places like ChurchKey, Brasserie Beck and Birreria Paradiso, that quench the appetites of a pretty decent sized population of aficionados. Small, well respected breweries make it a point to export to the DC area because the market is so ripe for well crafted beers. It seems like the perfect place to open a brewery. More over, it seems like the sort of place a local would start brewing on his own, generate a following and eventually establish a successful brewery. Thankfully, Port City Brewing Co. is making this a reality.
The 3600 block of King Street is closed in both directions due to a water main break early this morning. All traffic is currently being diverted onto a service road in front of the Bradlee Shopping Center; commuters are urged to use alternate routes.
A spokesperson for Virginia American Water told WTOP the break occurred in a main underneath King Street near North Dearing Street around 4 a.m. Repair crews have shut off water in the area of the break, affecting service to approximately 200 homes in the area. There is no estimate on how long it will take to make repairs.
On April 30th the DC metropolitan area loses one of its truly unique businesses when Video Vault in Old Town closes the door on its astonishing collection of movie rental rarities for the last time. Like so many long-running, specialty businesses in the area, Video Vault has finally succumbed to the perfect storm of online competitors and the economic downturn. Add to that Video Vault’s main business being the renting of out-of-print movies on VHS in an age when VCRs are quickly becoming collectors’ items in their own right, and their closing seems almost inevitable.
Like so many of their incredibly rare movies, after April 30th, Video Vault will soon be impossible to find. For the next month however, Video Vault is still open, still renting, and is now selling off their inventory of thousands of ultra-rare movies. If you are a movie fan and have never experienced Video Vault, I highly encourage you to go before the store is gone. Browsing Video Vault is entertainment in itself. They feature specialty sections full of eye-catching oddities, themed displays that are movie-geek mana such as Extreme Asian Horror or the Blind Dead collection, and of course the infamous Cult room; a vault within the Vault that features the titillating and taboo, a wonderful tribute to shock and schlock cinema that is unlike anything DC will ever see again.
Thor Cheston is the beer director for Brasserie Beck, while Leah Dedmon is the wine director for BRABO. They may both work for Robert Wiedmaier (Rammy’s Chef of the Year last June), but they are passionate rivals on the merits of beer vs. wine, especially when it comes to which will pair best with food.
Oh, they’re also engaged.
Fellow WLDC author Kirk and I aren’t engaged. We aren’t even really rivals, he just happens to be partial to beer while I prefer cocktails. But we are committed to bringing you the very best in drinks! So when we learned Thor and Leah would be going head-to-head in a battle to prove whether beer or wine would win as best for food pairings, we jumped. Four courses crafted by Robert Wiedmaier, paired by Leah and Thor with both wine and beer? There was even a tie-breaker course! It’s a rough life, but we suffered for you.
Most importantly, the loser of this ancient struggle has to do the other’s laundry for a month (that would be Thor or Leah, not Kirk or I!). Along the way we learned a lot about interesting ways to do food pairings with different types of beer and wine. All took place Wednesday night over at Wiedmaier’s “foodie trifecta” partnership with Kimpton’s Lorien Hotel & Spa in Old Town, Alexandria – BRABO, the Tasting Room, and the Butcher’s Block.
It was a tough crowd of fervent wine and beer lovers. So let’s kick this battle off with some oysters, a strong golden ale, and a chablis…. Continue reading
One of my favorite pastimes is visiting independent boutiques in the DC area and talking to the owner. I am fascinated by their motivation to take a risk in retail. When Treat in Old Town Alexandria opened in 2007 and was described as a sample sale boutique, I made a special trip to check out this unique shop. I was greeted by a warm, friendly smile from the store’s owner, Jen Donohue.
I am fortunate to have spent time with Jen through the years and I am inspired by her entrepreneurial spirit, fabulous sense of style combined with hard work that has made Treat one of the best boutiques in the DC area.
Jen is a copyright attorney at a large law firm in downtown DC and my type of girl as both a lover of fashion and great bargains. She first got the idea to open Treat in 2005 when she was visiting New York City and waiting in line at a sample sale. The pure madness of the lines with their pushing and shoving was not her favorite thing but a great deal on designer labels was – she came home with a coveted pair of Manolo heels. Continue reading
I’m not a huge breakfast person, but, in my opinion, one of life’s most precious graces is the bagel. I feel like in most major cities, particularly in NYC, decent bagel shops are a dime a dozen. There are enough that there can be significant controversy as to which shop is the best in the city, or even the best in a particular neighborhood. Unfortunately, this is not the case in DC. I’ve got my regular bagel shop, but my choosing it was more based on scarcity than on it actually being the best. So, readers, am I missing something, or are decent bagels a rarity in DC? Thus far, I’ve only found one shop that I’d call “good” and that’s Best Buns in Shirlington. What are your favorites?
Welcome to the Friday Happy Hour, your single drink primer for the weekend.
On icy weekends, such as the one we’re facing, you can’t stand for a cool, fruity, refreshing drink. It just doesn’t fit. Instead, you need something warm and robust that will ward off the cold; something that you can sip so that the warmth lingers for as long as possible. There are a few beverages that accomplish this, but I’m going to recommend Founders’ Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale. This stuff is powerful, with an 8.5%ABV and a thick texture. The flavor is complex and malty, with a sweet, smoky overtone. It’s a perfect example of a scotch ale, just one step lighter than a stout, both in color and character. Beware, though, this Michigan brewed beauty is not for the faint of heart, and definitely not a beginners beer. Rustico in Alexandria should have it on tap, or you can find bottles in most specialty wine shops.
The DC area, this weekend, was something of a post-apocalyptic landscape. Driving down 395 on Saturday, one would have seen abandoned cars spun out at odd angles and their stranded drivers trudging towards some nameless help. Most residents stayed holed up in their homes, living off of the provisions they had dutifully stocked the day before. Basic commodities were impossible to come by and the majority of services simply shut down. As the snow storm abated, DC residents peered from their homes at the changed landscape, and painstakingly began the cleanup, trying to return to normality.
Ok, sure, that is a bit of an over-dramatization, but seriously, 395 did look like something out of 28 Days Later. This snow, like any snow, threw into sharp relief how woefully unprepared DC area citizens are for wintry weather. So, as a northerner, I take it upon myself to save you all from yourselves before the next snowpocalypse.
Continuing with our “Good Samaritan” theme, I now provide you with a means by which you may become said Samaritan. Behold: the WaPo giving map. This handy application maps out charities in the DC area and sorts them by type. The list includes everything from homeless shelters, to non-profits for the arts, to religious charities. So, in the spirit of the season, take a look at the map and find a place in your area that you’re willing to give time or money to. Make someone’s holiday better.