I headed to Elisir for its first dinner post soft-opening, and was pleasantly surprised there were no signs that the restaurant in Penn Quarter had literally just opened its doors that same week. The staff was beyond attentive without being intrusive and knew the menu cold. The lighting was bright and refreshing, and the open kitchen area was amazing. Basically, Elisir lived up to Italian fine dining as billed, without being pretentious or stuffy.
Chef Enzo Fargione is on his game. The former chef of Teatro Goldoni on K Street is the model of concentration at Elisir. There’s no yelling in the kitchen; it was almost serene. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel like going the tasting menu route…I think I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by the whole culinary journey craze as of late. At Elisir you’ll find for dinner a seven-course $75 tasting menu, and 10-course $95 menu, but I went for the a la carte.
courtesy of ‘willsfca’
The holiday season has arrived, and it’s the perfect time to start thinking about how to give back. It gets easier and easier every year – bring cans to work, send a text contribution, add an extra dollar to an online bill payment – you really have no excuse. Food lovers have a simple way to contribute as well. In the next few months many of my favorite restaurants are teaming up with local charities and coming up with creative ways to raise money. All you have to do is eat. Here are my top 3.
Haidar Karoum, executive chef of Estadio and Proof, is a breed of chef who always knew he belonged in the kitchen. Looking back on his childhood, he can remember being in awe of the produce and meat aisles of grocery stores and one time getting purposely lost in Harrod’s food hall when he was 9 years old. He remembers being “obsessed” with cooking shows such as Great Chefs of the West and rushing home to catch them on TV when he was 12. “I’m constantly immersed in food. My condo is littered with cookbooks. You can’t go into any room without there being a stack of them,” Haidar laughs.
After high school, the northern Virginia native attended the Culinary Institute of America and thus began his long and impressive cooking career. He externed with Michele Richard at Citronelle and much later he became chef de cuisine at Restaurant Nora in Dupont Circle. Straight out of culinary school, he worked at the now-closed Gerard’s Place. “He was like a God,” says Haidar, talking about french chef Gerard Panguard and his first job out of culinary school. “His philosophy of simplicity and his influence were important to me. It was an honor to work in his kitchen.” Continue reading →
Looking for some great things to do over the summer while the tourists flood in? There are several great programs (free!) being hosted by the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) in Penn Quarter this month. Take some time to check them out!
Opening Night of the IV BrazilDocs Documentary Film Week: Santiago
June 9, 7 p.m.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery host the opening-night film, “Santiago,” of the IV BrazilDocs Documentary Film Week, sponsored by the Cultural Section of the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, DC. In 1992, João Moreira Salles, one of Brazil’s foremost documentary filmmakers, began shooting a film about Santiago, the butler in his childhood home, who had lived a rich and vivid life. Through the film’s personal narrative, Salles addresses the elements of memory and identity that are crucial to the documentary genre.
The House I Live In
June 11, 4 p.m.
A theatrical presentation by Catherine Ladnier chronicles life in America from New Year’s Eve in 1939 through the end of World War II. Music underscores dramatic readings of letters written by servicemen and their loved ones, which recount the lingering effects of the Great Depression, America’s involvement in World War II, life on the home front, the bravery of soldiers, and gratitude for peace. In conjunction with “To Make a World: George Ault and 1940s America.”
Prince of Petworth has some good food news for us. If signs speak the truth, King of Kabob is taking over the old Bao Restaurant & Loungeat 1018 Vermont Ave. Also, if you love your seafood and need something more than a truck, PoP hears that Luke’s Lobster Shack is coming to Penn Quarter at 622 E St, NW. Luke’s currently has 4 locations in New York City. With seafood rolls and brisket (Hill Country) now available in PQ, I might have to move there.
The name reminds me a little too much of those books we all read in elementary school, but this is good news anyway! The Hill is Home updates us on BoxCar Grill (just a working name for now), which will be Xavier Cervera’s fifth (sixth if you count Pacifico) establishment on the Hill. The Hill is Home says BoxCar will be an upsale place with an in-house charcuterie, cheeses, and a large wine selection.
The food truck/cupcake/small business/personal quest (?) wars continue…and get quite strange indeed. Read Sprinklegate turns food truck war in The Washington Examiner.
Are you always arguing with friends about which burger joint in DC is actually the best? Well, Food & Wine picks two DC restaurants for us as part of its “Best Burgers in DC” slideshow. Their picks: Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington (shocking) and Palena Café.
Agora is adding a new fixed price, three-course lunch menu at $14.99 per person Monday through Friday from 11 AM until 3 PM. You can pick Turkish and Greek inspired dishes like grilled ground lamb and beef kebab with sumac onions & Baklava, along with a choice of non-alcoholic beverage.
If you really follow chef moves, Top Chef Finalist Carla Hall joins DC Central Kitchen’s Board of Directors. DCCK is also looking to start a Truck Farm. Curious? Find out more here.
Executive Chef Brian McBride has tapped Eric Fleischer as the New Chef de Cuisine of the Award-Winning Blue Duck Tavern. Most recently, Fleischer worked as chef de cuisine at Zola in Penn Quarter.
Speaking of PQ, accoring to Penn Quarter Insider, Hill Country BBQ opens on Saturday (or maybe the 17th?). So check it out one of those days or go to U Street’s newest sports bar, Touchdown. TBD reports that Touchdown opened its doors Tuesday in the former space of Momo’s Sports Bar. The bar shows-off old photographs of the Washington Senators from the 1924 World Series.
I think most twenty-somethings (or really, people with good taste in general) have a special love for Chipotle. The Mexican chain is brilliant when you’re super hungry and need food fast, and aren’t up for a greasefest of hamburgers and fries. But how many burrito bowls can one girl eat before she’s ready for something new? (More than you think, probably, but just go with it.)
Lucky for us, Merzi on 7th street is much like Chipotle, except with an Indian twist. Same fast-food concept, same create-your-own feel, but with fun new flavors like tikka masala and chutneys. Also, bonus, it’s locally run and owned, and you guys know how I feel about supporting small businesses. So read on, my lovelies, for a first look at the new Penn Quarter eat place. Continue reading →
Appropriately dubbed the “Indian Chipotle”, newcomer Merzi is giving away free food today from 11 a.m. to noon at the Penn Quarter restaurant. I stopped by last night for a sneak preview, and walked away a big fan. The steps are just like Chipotle, pick a base (in this case, Naan, Chaat, Rice or Salad), add beans, add a meat (I recommend the beef, shrimp or chicken), toppings like lettuce and rice, and then a masala or a chutney to finish. My favorite was the green chili chutney, but don’t expect to cuddle up to your coworkers after lunch, it certainly has a kick.
Good news for our gluten-free friends, the owner’s son has a gluten allergy, so the restaurant is particularly conscientious of careful gluten-free preparation and keeps most items entirely gluten free (aside from the naan and the samosas, obviously). Boylan’s bottled sodas and a mango and probiotic yogurt smoothie keep you refreshed. Merzi is located on 7th street between D and E next to Carmine’s, and is open from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily.
When I first started with We Love DC, we had 11 authors. (I also hiked to school uphill both ways.) Now, we have a food and drink team of seven writers, and more fabulous authors than I can name in a sitting. We’ve grown into a big family, and so we were invited to Carmine’s for a dinner for eight, it was only fitting that we go together as a team, and make it a faux-thanksgiving feast.
Carmine’s is, as you’ve heard I’m sure, the largest restaurant in DC right now. So inviting a raucous gaggle of WLDC writers meant only one thing: we’d be loud. Luckily, Carmine’s is built for loud, large groups, and so we feasted on pasta, pasta, wine, pasta and a cannoli or two or five. Continue reading →
The embargo is officially over: Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar will open its doors on September 17th in Penn Quarter. With outposts in Philadelphia, Atlantic City and Orlando, the restaurant’s Washington opening marks a highly anticipated (and oft-delayed) addition to the city’s dining scene.
The restaurant’s 200-seat dining room will evoke Havana’s 1950’s golden age, placing guests in what will feel like a tropical outdoor courtyard. While the design takes a page from the past, the cuisine is all nuevo Cubano. Think lunchtime Cuban Bento Boxes, shareable tasting plates and flights of (sustainable!) ceviche. The menu – developed specifically for DC by the chain’s Concept Chef Guillermo Pernot – will pay culinary homage to the island’s African, Creole, Asian and native Tainos influences. If you’re more focused on the “Rum Bar” portion of the restaurant’s name, never fear: as Jenn reported back in January, the restaurant is known for its 75 varieties of rum and countless other cocktails.
To celebrate the restaurant’s opening, Cuba Libre will be offering 50% off its dinner menu from September 17th through 23rd. From September 24th through 30th, you can still enjoy 25% discounts before full prices kick in on October 1st. It’s the restaurant’s way of thanking patrons for their patience as they work out the kinks and settle into their groove.
Cuba Libre is located at 801A 9th Street NW. Closest Metro stop: Gallery Place/Chinatown (Green, Yellow, Red lines). For more information, call (202) 408-1600.
I love throwing dinner parties. In my head, they always turn out like the cover of Bon Appetit and there’s always enough delicious food and the wine is perfect and everyone is happy. But in actuality, the food is pretty okay, it never is all ready at the same time, and I usually forget to put forks on the table. I always just assumed that the perfect dinner party was in the same category as unicorns and leprechauns, but Poste Roast proves that is not the case.
Poste Roast is a genius special event put on by the fine folks at Poste Moderne Brasserie in the Hotel Monaco. It’s part pig roast and part elegant dinner party. I admittedly didn’t really know what to expect when I forced seven of my closest friends to give over full control of their dinner and wallets to me that night, but I thought it was bound to be something memorable.
Every Friday for the next six weeks, the International Spy Museum (ISM) will be debuting a new exhibit within the museum, including the addition of several new rare artifacts from the shadowy world of espionage. These new additions (some for a limited time only) join the already-extensive collection regarding the world’s “second-oldest profession” and the new gallery dedicated to espionage in the 21st Century. Several of these exhibits will tie into special programs occurring at the museum over the next few months, covering not only the secret history of spying but also exploring today’s hottest topics that daily impact the world of intelligence. “Espionage deals with clandestine, hidden information and the best spies make sure their every trace disappears, which makes finding personal pieces of tradecraft very challenging,” says Anna Slafer, ISM’s Director of Exhibitions and Programs. “Many of our new artifacts have to come us from intelligence agencies and the families of these famous spies, giving us a detailed story of these object’s role in history.”
If you’re a fan of the TV show Southland (formerly of NBC, now re-starting at TNT), drop by the Crime & Punishment Museum tonight over in Penn Quarter and meet actor Michael Cudlitz, who plays Officer John Cooper. He’ll be there from 5:15 to 6:15 tonight, and entry to the Museum is free if you use the password “Southland” at the entry.
An intrepid group of 25 photographers met last night at the Friendship Arch in Chinatown to explore the neighborhood, take photos, and talk with visiting photo guru Derrick Story. It was a cool fall evening, but the light was good, and the company better still. Dig on deeper for the best of the bunch, or browse the whole tag at Flickr.
We’re excited that this Wednesday night at 6pm, Derrick Story, author of Pocket Guide to Digital Photography and proprietor of The Digital Story, and We Love DC will be putting on a Photowalk through Chinatown and Penn Quarter. We will gather at the Friendship Arch (pictured above) from 6:00 to 6:10, and we’ll probably walk about 90 minutes, before finishing at RFD at 7:30 or so for a round of tasty beverages on me.
We’ve also got a feature slot lined up on Thursday morning to feature your night shots of Chinatown and Penn Quarter, so if you can get a rough cut of your shots from the evening posted to our Flickr Group before 8am on Thursday, that would be most excellent. Let us know if you’re coming, just put a comment in the thread, and we’ll keep an eye out for you Wednesday night.
Another two weeks, another neighborhood! This week we’ll be looking at the neighborhood at the center of it all: Penn Quarter. This neighborhood encompasses much of the downtown/Chinatown area north of Pennsylvania between 5th Street NW and 9th Street NW. It’s a neighborhood that changed a lot in the past decade, seeing as it didn’t really exist before the 1990s.
History: This neighborhood is once again the heart of downtown DC, but up until recently it went through a pretty rough patch. Because of its central location, the area was the hub of activity in the city up through the mid-twentieth century. Theaters, department stores, streetcar lines, restaurants, offices– this was the heart of the city (check out Washington Kaleidoscope’s Lost Washington series for historic photographs of the area). But the streetcar lines were torn out, theaters were shuttered, and department stores closed their doors when the population base of the city escaped to the suburbs in the 1950s and 1960s. Apparently President Kennedy commented on the sad state of this part of Pennsylvania Avenue during his inauguration, and in 1962 the President’s Council on Pennsylvania Avenue was established.
The President’s Council proposed a number of redevelopment projects in the area (including plans for a Freedom Plaza that would have rivaled the size of Moscow’s Red Square), and in 1972 the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation (PADC) was founded to guide the redevelopment. The PADC got a lot of things done: the Federal Triangle area was redeveloped and the Ronald Reagan Building was completed, the Canadian embassy was built, and a bunch of new mixed-use projects were undertaken in the Penn Quarter area. The MCI Center (now Verizon Center) was a crowning achievement for the area when it opened in 1997. With its sports events and concerts, it attracted restaurants and stores to locate in the area. After the first stage of retail development, new downtown housing was built throughout the area, thus creating the neighborhood of Penn Quarter. Today, the area is the most vibrant and active of the District’s neighborhoods– it’s hard to believe that fifteen years ago, it was considered to be an abandoned and dangerous part of town.
Penn Quarter’s trendy happy hour spot Poste is introducing a new farm-to-table concept by chef Rob Weland. ‘Poste Roasts’, an affordable family table dining concept served out in the garden, features a spit-roasted locally-sourced animal (guest’s choice) on the garden’s new grill. Weland serves it with a complementary side that features ingredients from local farms and the restaurant’s organic garden.
The dinner, served for 6 to 12 people, is available every night except Thursdays. The meal is eaten outdoors, at the chef’s table in the restaurant garden. Unlike other larger dinners like this in the area (Planet Wine or The Majestic) – Poste Roasts will only set you back $27 per person (excluding dessert and wine). If you’re up for it, you can spring for more specific pairings with VA wines for each roast as well.
WeLoveDC authors Donna (greenie) and Katie (foodie) have paired up to bring you a double-hitting feature about local area restaurants that take on the challenge of being green. Donna will explain the logic behind the environmentally friendly trends and Katie will tell you if the food tastes any good. It’s a rough life, but someone has to do it, right?
It is oh-so-trendy, but not just that, it’s plain good for you and the earth. Farm-to-Table dinners have hit DC hard, so when WLDC author Donna and I were invited to sample Chef Terri Cutrino’s Farmer’s Market Dinners at Cafe Atlantico, we jumped at the chance.
Katie: From a foodie standpoint, these dinners are interesting to me, not just because I’ve finally gotten around to reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma (I’m late, I know), but also because this particular type of dinner and dining can show you what exactly a chef is made of.
Because the ingredients are not picked until Thursday, and the dinner is put together on Friday, it’s a stretch. Sort of Top Chef meets real life, if you will. And the results, I must say are the same, given the short amount of time a Chef has to work on a dish, with specific ingredients, you’re bound to have it be hit or miss – just like Top Chef, you’ll be presented with dishes that shine, and dishes that flop. On our particular night we experienced both. Continue reading →
Yesterday, before watching my Tar Heels snag our fifth Championship title (squee!), I headed over to Zaytinya for a media preview of the Easter Menu.
While I’m still basking in the glow of my University of National Champions win, the Easter food and drink at Zaytinya certainly added to the wonderfulness of yesterday. So let me see if I can focus on food for a moment and tell you all about the Easter Festival headed our way… Continue reading →
This morning’s letter on the Murky Coffee website is no April Fools’ Joke. Replacing Murky in the space they’ll leave behind in Clarendon will become a venture of the group that owns Liberty Tavern, with a new space, and a new concept. While details are still sketchy, from what I understand, the upstairs at the new coffee location will be a co-working space, something like Beehive Baltimore or Indy Hall in Philadelphia.
The staff of Murky, owner Nick Cho included, are coming back into the District starting in early to mid May at a new shop called Wrecking Ball Coffee, which will be over at 5th and H Sts NW in Chinatown. The changes will be taking place here in the next month, leaving me without a third place to work from, which has me very disappointed. Murky has been, since I left my desk job, my home and community since 2006. The picture above shows half my Murky family, the other roving consultants and self-employed folks who have been my “co-workers,” and I count many among my finest friends. This site was actually designed and coded in the upstairs section of Murky before the county shuttered that part of the shop.
Murky’s run wasn’t free from controversy, from the problem with DC sales taxes that shuttered the Capitol Hill location, to Dickpunchgate, but it was home to me. And so, I’ll miss my third place, and hope that the folks who run Liberty Tavern will know they have a group of regulars who’re looking for a home, and open to what they’ve got to offer.