Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Rebecca Albright of Ted’s Bulletin (Part 2)


Montgomery Pie
Courtesy of Rebecca Albright/Linda Roth Associates

As that chill in the air grows, there’s one thing I’m always up for baking: pie. It’s comforting, rarely complicated and the smell of spiced fillings permeates my apartment with a delightfully sweet scent.

And what better recipe to have as we near the holidays than a recipe for a gingerbread pie. Pastry chef Rebecca Albright of Ted’s Bulletin shares her recipe for Montgomery Pie. Check out the recipe after the jump.
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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Rebecca Albright of Ted’s Bulletin (Part 1)

Pastry chef Rebecca Albright is swiftly, and perfectly, crimping a pie crust while people pack into Ted’s Bulletin for a post-brunch wave of service on a busy Saturday. While waiting for a table, the pastry station serves as a source of entertainment for patrons who get to peer over the short glass wall at the assembly line of pop tarts, pie crusts being rolled out, and more desserts taking form. For Albright, the bakery window is one of her favorite parts of the job. “You get to interact with guests and get feedback, see their reactions,” she says.

Before she became a pastry whiz, Albright had studied broadcast journalism, though she found herself jumping at the chance to do different catering events and baking wedding cakes for friends during and after college. Towards the end of undergrad, she picked up a minor in food science, knowing that’s where her real passion was. Combine all of that with a natural affinity for baking and memories of growing up baking with her grandmother, it’s no surprise that a career in pastry was on the horizon. For a while, Albright entertained the idea of being a wedding cake designer before ultimately deciding to enroll at L’Academie de Cuisine.
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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Anthony Lombardo of 1789 (Part II)

 

Reading (more like drooling) through the seasonal menu at 1789, there were at least a dozen dishes I would have loved to make with Chef Lombardo,  like the Duck Confit Strudel with mascarpone cheese, cherry compote and foie gras creme (umm yes, that’s duck, cheese, and foie… all packaged up in a pastry). But we agreed to make something lighter, a dish that us home cooks could take a stab at and hopefully succeed in impressing future dinner guests, because I don’t know about you but I ain’t messing with no home-foie gras. We chose to make the Yellowfin Tuna and Florida citrus salad, a dish that can easily be a starter or a main course, with vibrant colors and clean, fresh flavors.

Being that it was at 1789, I expected  a million techniques and sauces and tricks and expensive ingredients to come together, but the opposite occurred. Simplicity is the name of the game here. The yellowfin tuna is cooked just rare, served warm on a bed of sliced oranges and grapefruit, drizzled with a lemon vinaigrette and topped with a fennel and mache salad. The combination of citrus, crisp, salt, pepper and mixed temperatures makes for a satisfying and beautiful dish.

This year, 1789 is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and as part of that celebration is offering diners an opportunity to have a 5 course meal for $50.00. If there is one thing you have to do right this month, its this. Let Lombardo take care of you, you can thank me later.

Find the recipe after the jump, and bring a little 1789 home.

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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Anthony Lombardo of 1789 (Part I)

It was a rainy, grey Sunday, which in my book usually means a day spent in bed, catching up on emails while watching some god-awful reality show that makes me question humanity as we know it. But the saving grace this Sunday was Anthony Lombardo, Executive Chef at 1789 Restaurant. He greeted me with a smile and a cup of coffee presented in a large plastic cup, “You gotta drink it like the chefs do” and I happily obliged. And thus, my day as a poser began.

1789 needs little introduction-  it is a Washington DC staple, a Georgetown establishment that has fed Presidents, international Diplomats, celebrities and the like. It is also smack in the middle of one of the youngest areas in town, forming part of the Georgetown University campus. As a Georgetown student I never dined at 1789, rather, our friends would gather down at The Tombs, where beer ran cheap and burgers were substance enough. There’s a beautiful juxtaposition between the two; 1789 and The Tombs. The Tombs is packed with students; the culture hungry, the intellectuals, the dreamers, the young and somewhat restless. 1789, above, is where that Tombs student wants to be one day. Established, powerful, settled, taken care of by world class staff and in a world class setting. The harmonizing link between the two is Chef Lombardo, whose responsibility it is to run 1789 and the Tombs flawlessly.

A year ago, Chef Lombardo was given the position as Executive Chef at 1789 after a grueling interview process. In just two hours the man cooked six dishes- all of which he recounted in exact detail, for a panel of judges. The panel undoubtedly made the right choice, bringing in a chef who is focused on quality ingredients, flawless execution, and flavorful perfection, not to mention with the right leadership and right attitude to lead one of the most important kitchens in the city. In the year Lombardo has been at 1789, the restaurant has had its most successful summer yet, and that’s saying a lot seeing as it has been around for 50 years now. He was given full control, changed the entire menu, introduced new techniques and spruced it all up with a fresh, new attitude.

A young Italian-American kid from Detroit, Lombardo grew up around two things- food and diversity. These two fueled a great culinary journey- for one lends itself well to the other. Lombardo was influenced heavily by his Italian family roots, and by his Middle Eastern migrant surroundings, which taught him understanding and acceptance, and a whole lot of humor. His cooking is undoubtedly American with an Italian undertone, a combination which is equally reflected in his persona. Within minutes of meeting Lombardo you are instantly at ease. He is a far cry from what I expected a chef of his caliber to be like- young and unafraid, welcoming and warm, all at the same time. And the dude knows how to crack a joke probably as well as he knows how to cook.

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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Ann Cashion of Johnny’s Half Shell (Part 2)

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Scallops with beets at Johnny’s Half Shell
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

We’ve done a a couple of scallops recipes on here by now, all ranging in difficulty. I’ve come to find that chefs in this town are really into scallops recipes for whatever reason. Maybe it’s because scallops are versatile, maybe it’s because the home cook can make them with minimal effort but still look fancy.

This recipe for scallops with bacon, roasted beets and a rice wine vinaigrette from Ann Cashion is completely accessible. The bacon adds a nice smokey flavor, and the beets in season right now are pleasantly sweet. That should count for something extra coming from someone that doesn’t think of herself as a big beets fan. Plus, the fried ginger slices and fried red onions for garnish make the dish stand out more. I had never had fried ginger before trying this dish and now I could see myself going hog wild with it as a garnish. It’s got that really nice bite to it.

After the jump you’ll find the full recipe. Enjoy.

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Ann Cashion making vinaigrette
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

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Capital Chefs: Ann Cashion of Johnny’s Half Shell (Part 1)

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Chef Ann Cashion
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

If I were to ever ditch the desk for a kitchen, I think I’d want to work for Ann Cashion. There’s a certain warmth about her–several of her staff call her “Ann” rather than “chef,” and the way she interacts with all of them you can see that she cares about everyone in her kitchen. In return, she doesn’t even have to breathe a word and the right prep bowls and ingredients wind up at her station when she needs them. “I’m very hands-on and I’m willing to do the same things others are doing,” says Cashion about her style in the kitchen and referring to some of the more “drudge” tasks.

For the chef and part owner of Johnny’s Half Shell,  leading and developing her staff is one of the most rewarding parts of her job. In fact, if you take a look around the city you’ll see more than a handful of chefs, such as Teddy Folkman, who have trained under Ann and have gone on to open their own restaurants or run their own kitchens. From our conversation, Ann’s approach to leading in the kitchen seems so nurturing and down to earth that if she were your boss, she’d be the last person you’d want to disappoint. “You can’t over-demand from your staff. I had to learn that,” she says. “I’m a perfectionist and perfection is something to aspire to. But if you don’t achieve it every time, that’s okay too.”

With her attention to mentoring other chefs and developing culinary talent, it comes as no surprise that the people behind the food are part of why Ann became a chef in the first place. ”Food is a very wide open field. It’s a very human field,” she explains. “Everybody connects to food.”

In addition to the human factor, Ann liked that food “wasn’t so specialized,” unlike her doctoral program in English Literature at Stanford which she left early to pursue cooking. There are still instances when her background in literature peeks through in conversation though. “I think of food as a language–if you don’t have the vocabulary and syntax down, it’s hard to write poetry,” she says, explaining why traditional Western training is important for aspiring chefs. “Italian food was my first love. It formed the basis for my aesthetic,” she adds. “I liked the non-fussiness of it, the emphasis on the quality of ingredients and the idea of the slow food movement.”
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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Daily Feed

Chef Moves at RIS and The Hamilton

Photo courtesy of Jenn Larsen

Chefs don’t stay still in the kitchen, so why would you expect otherwise in the DC dining scene? Two of the recent chef moves around DC are happening at RIS and The Hamilton.

Last week, chef/owner Ris Lacoste named Sue Drabkin as the executive pastry chef. Drabkin was previously the executive pastry chef at the Inn at Perry Cabin about two hours outside of the city in St. Michaels, MD. In a press release, Drabkin mentioned that her love of art and antiques, as well as her hobby of jewelry design serve as inspiration for her desserts. Some of Drabkin’s first desserts at RIS will include a basque cake with strawberry-rhubarb compote with brown sugar ice cream and toasted walnuts, as well as a Valhrona milk chocolate semifreddo with chocolate sauce, chocolate crisps and a whipped crème fraîche.

A little further downtown, the colossal Hamilton named Salvatore Ferro as their new executive chef. No stranger to the Clyde’s Restaurant Group, Ferro had previously worked in Las Vegas at Guy Savoy’s restaurant at Caesar’s Palace, where he met former 1789 executive chef, Dan Giusti. Following his time in Vegas, Ferro became the executive sous chef at 1789 in 2009, and was later the executive chef at Clyde’s of Georgetown. Some of the highlights on Ferro’s menu will include dishes such as flat iron steak frites, duck carbonara and charcuterie options.

Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Sebastien Archambault of Blue Duck Tavern (Part 2)

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Salmon with sorrel cream at Blue Duck Tavern
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

Sometimes you need to glam things up in the kitchen. Go for something a little elegant. Now, the recipe that follows from Blue Duck Tavern’s executive chef, Sebastien Archambault might look a little overwhelming at first–there’s smoked roe and you might be thinking of emailing me, “Sorrel cream? Child please, how can I make that?” But as I said, this is your chance to glam things up in the kitchen. And if you don’t want to go fancy, you can tweak the recipe here and there (ie: leave out the salmon roe). Knowing how to sear a piece of fish so that the skin is crispy? That’s something useful to keep in your back pocket after you try this recipe.

Or you can head straight to the second part and try your hand at the roasted baby vegetables and farro dish. I’m seeing farro on more and more menus and this is a good recipe that will let you use some of the produce that’s abundant at farmer’s markets around the city this time of year.

Happy cooking this weekend, readers.
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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Sebastien Archambault of Blue Duck Tavern (Part 1)

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Chef Sebastien Archambault of Blue Duck Tavern
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

There’s a school of thought that says specific talents or desires are in our genes or are passed down automatically from generation to generation. Looking at executive chef Sebastien Archambault’s path towards cooking, you might be persuaded to believe just that. Growing up, Sebastien’s father started out as an engineer for Texas Instruments and later became a chef and restauranteur. And while Sebastien initially went the science route himself, majoring in biology in New York, the kitchen came calling when he realized he didn’t want to be a researcher or teacher. “I grew up in the restaurant environment and world,” says the chef, explaining that as he grew older and spent more time helping out at his dad’s restaurant on vacations and holidays, he realized cooking was for him. He adds that both of his grandmothers cooked a lot. “It’s in my blood,” he says.

Fast forward through his ten or so years in Paris in cooking school and working in restaurants ranging from bistros to three star Michelin restaurants, to a stint in Mexico and another in Corsica, Sebastien returned to the United States in 2008. After four years working in Los Angeles at RH and L’Epicerie Market, he landed in DC at the end of 2011 to take the helm in the kitchen at the Blue Duck Tavern from previous chef, Brian McBride.The two had worked together in LA when McBride assisted with the opening of RH.
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Capital Chefs: Billy Klein of Café Saint-Ex (Part 2)

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Udon Carbonara at Cafe Saint-Ex
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

A good pasta carbonara separates the strong from the weak, the great from the average. Master that dish and you can certainly wow some dinner guests. The carbonara from Café Saint-Ex’s executive chef, Billy Klein, uses udon noodles and fresh pea shoots for a slightly different spin. The result? A pasta dish that remains light and fresh, even with a creamy sauce.

I can’t make any guarantees that yours will turn out as good as it does at Café Saint-Ex, so if I were you I’d head there first to check out the original with what was the best pork belly I’ve ever had (not an exaggeration)—crisp on the outside and not a bit of grizzly fat on the inside. And while you’re there the rest of this month, check out some of Billy’s creations for National Grilled Cheese month (read: grilled cheese on “potato bread”–gooey cheddar cheese and bacon in between slices of potatoes or the brioche encrusted with Fruity Pebbles and melted brie inside).

The full recipe, broken down by parts (roll up your sleeves and get ready for a little challenge!), is after the jump.

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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Billy Klein of Café Saint-Ex (Part 1)

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Chef Billy Klein of Cafe Saint-Ex
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

There’s something refreshing about a direct answer to a question these days. A simple statement that gets to the root of what you’re asking, that needs no follow-up question, leaves no confusion or wiggle room for ambiguity. And when I asked Billy Klein why he became a chef, I got a succinct, straightforward answer: “I love food. I love people. I love being artistic.”

The executive chef of Café Saint-Ex elaborates: “With cooking, there are no limits, no boundaries.” Growing up, Klein says that family meals were “always a big deal” in his household. Years later, that thread now carries over into his job as a chef where he says he loves bringing people together and that he enjoys making food that’s not “too cerebral—so that people don’t forget who they’re with.” Klein reminds you that yes, a meal is about the food, but it’s also about the experience and the people you share it with.

So unsurprisingly, after chatting with Klein it’s easy to see that he’s the type of down-to-earth person you’d not only want cooking your food, but that you’d also want to share said food with. He’s level-headed—which is not to say that he’s some vanilla shade of boring—you’ll see the flashes of badassery in tattoos peeking out from his shirt sleeves or when he and a few kitchen crew members slam a shot of whiskey before wrapping up a Saturday night shift. But for example, Klein explains that achieving balance in life is important as a chef. “I love what I do and I work my ass off. But you need balance in your life,” he says. “Being a successful chef is a sacrifice. You have to put in the work, the time and the training.” Part of that life balance is knowing that a chef can’t be at a restaurant all the time, obsessing over every detail and watching their kitchen staff like a hawk. Klein emphasizes that part of a chef’s job is teaching and trusting staff to turn out dishes that are as close to the original version from the chef.
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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink

Capital Brewers: Bill Butcher of Port City

Port City Brewing Company #14
Photo courtesy of Hans Bruesch

Tucked away in an unassuming former building supply warehouse in an Alexandria industrial park, a pineapple – a symbol of American hospitality since the colonial era – perches on the sign advertising Port City Brewery, one of several local breweries that have cropped up in the DC area over the last few years. As it turned out, the advertising is correct, and we were warmly welcomed into the brewery by its founder and owner, Bill Butcher.
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Alexandria, Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Tony Chittum of Vermilion (Part 2)

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Brussels Sprouts Salad at Vermilion
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

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.

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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Tony Chittum of Vermilion (Part 1)

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Chef Tony Chittum of Vermilion
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

Some people seek out their careers, and others have careers that seek out them. The latter was the case for executive chef of Vermilion, Tony Chittum, when he started working in a Mexican restaurant at 14 years old, just washing dishes. “It was easy to get a job in a restaurant then, and I liked it because of the energy,” he says. “Eventually I got sick of dishes and learned how to cook. I was 17 when I met the first real chef I worked for and realized that I could make a career out of this.”

It was then that Chittum “learned why and how to make things,” he says, describing the first time he learned how to make a roux. The Maryland native later moved out to San Francisco, where he worked for and learned from the “classically trained and intense” chef, Don Link. Chittum says that working for a chef of that caliber was a “big eye opener” and he began to learn what it would take to make it as a chef. Fast forward to today, and Chittum can honestly say he can’t see himself doing anything else.

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Capital Chefs: Ari Gejdenson of Acqua al 2 (Part 2)

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Pasta with beef ragu at Acqua al 2
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

Clearly I’ve been on a bit of an Italian food kick lately. As well as a ragu binge. But is there anything better than a huge, warm pot of zesty, savory tomato sauce cooking away while it’s cold outside? Chef Ari Gejdenson’s recipe for beef ragu at Acqua al 2 is simple and delicious. Click through for the full recipe.

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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Ari Gejdenson of Acqua al 2 (Part 1)

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Chef Ari Gejdenson of Acqua al 2
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

Watching executive chef Ari Gejdenson swiftly expedite plates at Acqua al 2, you’d never guess that he was previously an international soccer player and that the sport was what got him into the restaurant industry. For starters, playing soccer allowed the young chef to travel and be exposed to all different kinds of cuisines in foreign countries. And it was soccer that took Ari to Florence where he began his unorthodox journey to the kitchen. Not long after moving to Italy, he wound up opening Ari’s Diner, an American-style eatery. “I saw a gap and that it was something that was needed in Florence,” he says, adding that a lot of the clientele were American students who were studying abroad.

For Ari, playing soccer and running a restaurant aren’t so different, as he explains that in both arenas your job is to entertain people. “These homesick kids would come in[to the diner] upset. And they would come to this place that reminded them of home and they’d leave happy,” he says. “The whole idea of bringing people into a moment by heightening their tastes was what made me want to become a chef.” At Acqua al 2, you can see him work the room with ease, transitioning from calling out food orders to the kitchen to shaking hands and hugging regular customers.

After running Ari’s Diner with his childhood friend, Ralph Lee, who is a co-owner of Acqua al 2 in Eastern Market, Ari started working at the original Acqua al 2 in Florence and eventually served as the chef for several years there. Gejdenson says it’s hard to be in Italy and not get swept up in the incredibly rich food culture. “The passion for food in Italy is a different thing. You’d have to have a blindfold on not to notice,” he says. After years of living and working in Florence, the Washington native returned home to open the second U.S. location of Acqua al 2.

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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, Penn Quarter, The Features

Capital Chefs: Fabio Trabocchi of Fiola (Part 2)

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Tuscan Tomato Soup & Buffalo Mozzarella Toast at Fiola
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

Put down the Kraft singles. Step away from the cheese whiz or whatever else you’re holding in your hand. Grilled cheese and tomato soup is about to be taken to a whole new level. Fiola style. And in this frigid weather as of late, this hearty soup and sandwich will keep you warm and your belly full.

For Fabio Trabocchi, the chef and mastermind behind Fiola, he says “there’s a lot to learn from what a kid likes,” and occasionally uses it as inspiration in the kitchen. In this dish, Trabocchi takes a childhood classic and makes a grownup version that I’m sure you’ll enjoy.

Click through for the full recipe and here for more pictures.

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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, Penn Quarter, The Features

Capital Chefs: Fabio Trabocchi of Fiola (Part 1)

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Chef Fabio Trabocchi of Fiola
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

Ask Fabio Trabocchi what the biggest challenge for him is and you’ll get an interesting answer. “There are no challenges,” he says, and promptly laughs as if to correct himself. Normally, I’d be surprised by such an answer, but when you think about what the chef of Fiola has achieved–a James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic in 2006, Chef of the Year from the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington in 2005, Food & Wine’s Best New Chef in 2002, oh and not to mention working at a 3 star Michelin restaurant by 16 years old–you might think this super-chef has indeed transcended any challenges. Trabocchi clarifies: “It depends on how you look at a challenge. That’s what makes it fun. It’s challenging to run out of challenges. Every challenge is very exciting.”

The chef explained that while some other people might look at work in terms of hours, he chooses not to and frankly, says he doesn’t have time to. “I do this because I really like it,” he says. “I’m involved in the food, the financial side–in every part of the restaurant. I like all the aspects of [the restaurant industry].” As he moves around the kitchen and talks to me in our interview, it’s clear that Trabocchi operates with a certain degree of intensity and razor-sharp focus. Every move is done with purpose. He explains how his work as a chef differs from most: “Other professions can go back and fix their work. A cook puts food on the plate and gets that one chance.”

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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Ris Lacoste of Ris (Part 2)

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Ris Lacoste’s Endive, Walnut & Blue Cheese Salad with Port Vinaigrette
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time wandering through the produce aisles staring at vegetables and wondering what in the world you should make with them. You’re overwhelmed by the options and the daunting threat of those veggies passing their prime in the bottom of your refrigerator’s crisper. Stress no more. Chef Ris Lacoste of Ris shared with me a recipe for an endive, walnut and blue cheese salad with port vinaigrette. I know, it’s winter and the thought of salad seems foreign. But this dish is hearty and a great way to get creative and bring some bright flavors into your kitchen while we wait for warmer weather. Click through to find the full recipe.
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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Ris Lacoste of Ris (Part 1)

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Chef Ris Lacoste
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

Growing up, Ris Lacoste thought she would be anything but a chef. She was a pre-med student for two years at the University of Rochester; then she had visions of becoming a UN translator when she got her degree in French at UC-Berkeley. But all the while, Ris was working in the food and restaurant industry in some capacity since she was a teenager. “It was going on my whole life, but I didn’t know it,” she says. When she was 12, she started working at a Polish market on weekends helping out by stocking shelves. By the time she was 16, she was a short-order cook and later an assistant manager at Friendly’s.

Then came France. In 1981, Ris moved to Paris to study French and got a part-time job at La Varenne Écôle de Cuisine as a receptionist and an editorial stagiaire. Her payment? Cooking classes in exchange for work. Slowly, she came to see that all the experiences along the way–talking to the milk man at the Polish market, learning about purveyors, interacting with customers–all of those things pointed her in the direction of becoming a chef. After receiving her grand diplome in French cooking, Ris moved back to the states and started working for Bob Kinkead, before making the move to 1789 in 1995, where she was the executive chef for 10 years.
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