It was 90 degrees and all I wanted was a freezing cold lemonade and an ice bath. Instead, I walked into The Bombay Club for Indian food, not the usual remedy to a hot and humid District day, I know. But spicy food and a well air-conditioned beautiful setting hit the spot. I thought, “Do as the Romans do,”–or in this case the Indians–and eat hot to cool down. Somehow, it worked magic.
I spent many years living in London, where Indian food is a staple. There are epic curry houses and great take-outs, and high-end Indian restaurants galore. When I moved to D.C. that was one of the foods I missed the most, and really had trouble finding those amazing naan’s, tikka’s and chutneys I craved so much. Well, until I heard about this guy… Ashok Bajaj.
You’re probably familiar with the fact that wine and whiskey are aged in barrels. But cocktails? It may seem like a trend, popping up in bars in London, Portland and New York for the past year or so, but it’s actually a much older revival – aging cocktail ingredients in oak barrels was a popular technique back at the turn of the last century. But for Bibiana‘s general manager Francesco Amodeo, it’s not a matter of trend. It’s practical.
“I was talking to my mother about their cellar at home,” he tells me, referring to the family home on the Amalfi Coast, “what to do with all the barrels?” His grandfather makes wine, and his mother was looking to get rid of the excess refuse. Francesco jumped at the chance to put them to another use. Starting with two sizes, 1 and 5 liter barrels, he’s crafted two cocktails for Bibiana that were just uncorked for the first time Tuesday evening after three months of aging.
As they’re produced in small quantities (at least until Francesco’s grandfather finishes crafting a 250 liter barrel for him) they’ll go fast, so get over to taste them. Aging cocktails gives the liquor a beautiful toasty quality, rounding out the flavor. Let’s take a closer look at Francesco’s two drinks and the process. Continue reading →
Risotto can be like a wild beast in the kitchen. If you don’t cook it long enough, it’s like eating little rock pellets. If you don’t stir it, you will end up with a gloppy mess. But in reality, risotto is not all that hard to make and make it well. So with that in mind, don’t get hung up on the idea that you have to babysit this pot of rice grains for a while. Besides, you’re cooking with wine…pour yourself a glass.
After the jump you’ll find Nick Stefanelli’s recipe for risotto frutti di mare. It’s a light risotto with the lemon juice, white wine and seafood–perfect for summertime. Keep in mind Stefanelli’s advice that this recipe (as most do) depends on the freshness of the seafood, and don’t get too hung up on what seafood to include in the risotto if something isn’t available at your grocery store. Again, Stefanelli would remind you that “frutti di mare” means “fruits of the sea,” stick with firm fish and shellfish for the risotto and you can’t go wrong. Continue reading →
While being a chef wasn’t in Nick Stefanelli’s original career plans, Italy (and it’s food) was and still is a common thread in the arc of his work. Stefanelli, the executive chef at Bibiana Osteria started out studying fashion design in Milan, when his interests switched over to food. “There is a profound food culture in Italy that’s not going on here,” he says. While “food was always in his life,” Stefanelli switched his focus to becoming a chef after traveling through Italy.
During our conversation, Nick put Italian food in a context that rang true for me. “You can’t put a label on what Italian food is. It’s not just pasta and tomato sauce–it’s a culture, ways of doing things, the knowledge of knowing your grower and the relationships that you build around the cuisine,” says Stefanelli. “I try to reproduce that here, rather than import products. I apply techniques and sauces of Italian cookery to the food that’s available here. If a cuisine stands still, it will fall to the wayside. You need evolution.” Continue reading →
Tweeting under @WestendBistro, Chef Palma has more than 1,110 followers, and Tweets a few times a day updating readers about new recipes: “Ridiculously nice halibut coming in for tomorrow” — and new concepts: “Permit apps pending for the smoker for April BBQ pop up, cross your fingers Making root beer this week with licorice root and sasparilla.” Even better, he gives us a nice look into his personal life, and he is never afraid to highlight other restaurants. Continue reading →
Talk about an empire. DCMud.com reports that restaurateur Ashok Bajaj, the man behind Bombay Club, 701, Rasika, and Ardeo + Bardeo could soon sign a lease for the retail space at 22 West in West End. Bajaj somewhat hinted at a new project in a chat last month with my fave food critic, Tom Sietsema.
My favorite news of the week comes via The Washington Post: Whole Foods Market and a D.C. real estate firm want to build a new store in Navy Yard, “but the developer says that luring the grocer would require $8 million in tax breaks.” WaPo reports that William C. Smith and Co. is proposing a 39,000-square-foot Whole Foods in the 800 block of New Jersey Ave. SE as part of a building that would also include 375 apartments.
In other Navy Yard news, JDLand writes that a beer garden might soon be on its way to Southeast. The ANC6D (Advisory Neighborhood Commission) voted 6-0 “to support the Bullpen’s plans to open an additional 632-seat beer garden at Half and M, across from the Navy Yard Metro station’s west entrance just north of Nationals Park.”
This little piggy went to market. This little piggy stayed home. This little piggy had roast beef. This little piggy had none. And this little went “wee. wee. wee” all the way home. And by home, I mean The Ritz-Carlton for Cochon 555 on Sunday, May 2.
This yearly competition travels the US in search of the “Prince / Princess of Porc” and has 5 local Chefs go head-to-head in a pig preparation throw down. Last year’s Prince, R.J. Cooper of Vidalia returns to defend his title and chefs from Bourbon Steak, Bibiana, Eola and Westend Bistro will try to usurp him. Lots of Pre-cooking, braising, grilling, pressing, pickling, rubbing, smoking, searing, saucing, spicing, injecting, marinating, etc. is involved and top-chefs have been known to use the entire animal.
Tickets for the event go for $125, and guests not only get to enjoy some tasty pork, but will witness a whole pig butcher demonstration, taste great wines, brews and enjoy a plethora of pig perfect desserts. There will also be an after party at a location to be determined.
Spring is a lovely time in Washington – this isn’t a revelation. But it’s a perfectly pleasing time to be eating out in our city. Chefs are getting excited about spring farm produce, and menus are waking up from their brussel-sprout-and-short-rib trance. Fish makes it’s way to a more prominent place on the menu, and cherry cocktails celebrate the turn of the season. The arrival of Zaytinya’s Easter festival makes me think of sundresses, and the announcement of RAMMY nominations makes me want to strip off my tights and thrown on some open-toed heels. These events that make DC the perfect place to eat in spring, and I’m oh-so-happy to be back here again! Continue reading →
I took a calculated risk eating at Bibiana Osteria & Enoteca on Labor Day Monday. First off, it’s Monday, the notoriously worst day of the week to eat out. Second off, Bibiana only opened on Friday. Third off, it’s Labor Day. No Chef will be working. But (isn’t there always a but?) I had a friend in need of a totally new, fresh place for dinner, so crossing my fingers and holding my breath, I suggested Bibiana. Plus, I’m currently in the middle of reading former New York Times food critic Mimi Sheraton’s memoir Eating My Words, where she argues, “As for reviewing an establishment too soon, my feeling is that as soon as a restaurant is open and full prices are being charged it is fair game.” Touche, Mimi. So with Mimi on my side, we struck out to discover Ashok Bajaj’s seventh restaurant in the DC area.
Was it able to stand up against all the forces it had going against it? You could have told me it was any Friday or Saturday night months from when it opened, you could have fooled me. Everything from the food to the service was absolutely on point. Continue reading →