Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Aaron Silverman of Rose’s Luxury

Aaron Silverman in the kitchen of Rose's Luxury (Photo courtesy Rose's Luxury)

Aaron Silverman in the kitchen of Rose’s Luxury (Photo courtesy Rose’s Luxury)

We’re revisiting our Capital Chefs feature with a series by music reporter Mickey McCarter. A lot has been happening recently in kitchens in D.C. restaurants, and Mickey takes a look into them from his usual seat at the bar in this series, which runs occasionally on Thursdays.

Aaron Silverman credits his neighborhood, Barracks Row in Eastern Market (on Capitol Hill), with the success of his restaurant, Rose’s Luxury.

And a desire to stay connected to that neighborhood is one of the big motivators for why the chef/owner does not take reservations, despite some controversy surrounding the policy.

“We don’t like kicking people out of their seats to sit the next person down,” Silverman told me in a recent phone conversation, “but a big part of it is that it’s advantageous to the neighborhood. All of the people in the neighborhood are at an advantage because they don’t have to drive for an hour or fly to get to us and then find out that we are full. Their risk is much lower. They can just walk across the street.”

Whether a restaurant takes reservations or no, its customers still have to play a waiting game. With reservations, they are calling on the phone every day with hopes to get a seat—four, six or eight weeks out. With no reservations, diners have the opportunity to show up that very day, but they may have to wait in line.

“Anybody who wants to be at Rose’s today can eat there today—guaranteed. You may have to get in line early and you may have to wait, but you are guaranteed to eat dinner there today if you want to,” Silverman declared. “If we took reservations only, we would be booked and there would be no way. You couldn’t just go.”

The policy of no reservations is the “lesser evil” because people who have waited can enjoy their meals for as long as they like, Silverman said.

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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Jesse Miller of Bar Pilar

Jesse Miller of Bar Pilar

Jesse Miller of Bar Pilar

We’re revisiting our Capital Chefs feature with a series by music reporter Mickey McCarter. A lot has been happening recently in kitchens in D.C. restaurants, and Mickey takes a look into them from his usual seat at the bar in this series, which runs weekly on Thursdays.

Out of art school, Jesse Miller sized up his prospects and took a job at the Elkridge Furnace Inn in Elkridge, Md.

The restaurant has one of the best wine programs in Maryland, offering gourmet French food to hungry customers as well as hosting weddings and catering.

At first thankful for a job, Miller ended up staying there for seven years.

“I was lucky enough to get a job there and that’s how this started,” said Miller, now chef at Bar Pilar and its sister establishment Café Saint-Ex. “Otherwise, I would still be trying to paint and living in the street someplace.”

He learned a lot at the Elkridge Furnace Inn that he applies to Bar Pilar, where his friends and customers hail him as an innovative chef.

“I was taught that a chef should accommodate anything at any time for anyone,” Miller said. “If you don’t like our options, we can always do something.

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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Spike Mendelsohn of The Sheppard

Spike Mendelsohn of Good Stuff Eatery

Spike Mendelsohn of Good Stuff Eatery

We’re revisiting our Capital Chefs feature with a series by music reporter Mickey McCarter. A lot has been happening recently in kitchens in D.C. restaurants, and Mickey takes a look into them from his usual seat at the bar in this series, which runs weekly on Thursdays.

Back in April during the James Beard Foundation’s Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change, Spike Mendelsohn cooked a whole pig for a feast. He used the pig’s head to make a 10-hour cheese head broth for a soup.

About halfway through, musician Jack Johnson wandered into the kitchen to check out Mendelsohn’s work. A long-time admirer of the folk rock surfer, the chef was over the moon, happy to share secrets of the soup with Johnson and his wife.

Soon, everyone ate the pig, and sat around a fire while Johnson played the guitar for hours. Afterward, they ate the soup.

“That was a pinnacle moment of my life where I got to meet a guy that I’ve always looked up to for numerous reasons,” Mendelsohn told me.

The happy encounter was no accident. Mendelsohn and 14 other chefs had gathered outside of San Francisco for the boot camp dedicated to bolstering the advocacy work of chefs and musicians.

“Not only did I meet him, but I was there as a peer of his. We were there to learn about the same thing and share ideas. As the weekend progressed in boot camp, we sacrificed a pig. It was part of the learning process of where food comes from and what is a good way to sacrifice a pig and what is the wrong way to sacrifice an animal for food.”

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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: A Rock and Roll Reintroduction

Several months ago, I was standing at the bar in Clyde’s of Georgetown, talking to friends Tim and Patrick, when Tim recommended that I read Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. Patrick enthusiastically agreed, and given that both men are sharp but usually quite different in their tastes, I made a note to take it on a plane to Las Vegas.

And I thoroughly enjoyed it, in large part because you got a sense of Bourdain’s New York City in the 1970s and 1980s—a place where for him food, music and vice came together vividly in kitchens, dive bars and streets. I particularly enjoyed his mentions of slipping into CBGB’s for a show and his nods to the punk rock heroes of his past. Afterward, I read three more Bourdain books. With his success as an author, his world got a lot broader but it was still read like an adventure in rock and roll.

I began to contemplate my own community, made up of venturesome people who go to see concerts at the 9:30 Club, the Black Cat, DC9, the Howard Theatre, The Fillmore, DAR Constitution Hall, and many other places around town. They live in these establishments and associated places—places that don’t host shows but serve fine food and drink. I’ve occasionally eaten with my fellow music admirers at some of these places; I’ve sometimes grabbed a dinner alone before or after a show; and I’ve made lists of interesting places to eat when recommendations are made. Man cannot live on music alone, after all.

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Food and Drink, The Daily Feed

Chef News: Dan Giusti of 1789 Heads to Denmark

Photo courtesy of
‘Barely mixing the dough’
courtesy of ‘CathyLovesDC’

As Tim Carman and The Washington Post reported yesterday, executive chef Dan Giusti of 1789 is packing his bags for Denmark. The 27-year-old chef is heading to work at Noma, a two Michelin star restaurant in Copenhagen. The restaurant has been listed as “the best” restaurant in the world for two years in a row by Restaurant Magazine.

According to The Post, Dan spent two weeks staging at Noma in July when he was told that there might be an opening there for him to come join their team. One thing led to another and now the chef is moving to Denmark. Dan will be staying at 1789 through August 28th.

Dan was the first chef I met in DC when I started writing about food and was still green on the restaurant scene. I always liked chatting with him at events when he would indulge any of my snarky comments about food and I liked to see a fellow New Jerseyan be successful in DC. No doubt Dan’s passion for food is what’s taking him to Noma, though DC will miss him. Best of luck, chef!

Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Chef Yonemoto of Kushi (Part I)

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You gotta respect a man with a headband and lean, mean butchering skills, right? Chef Yonemoto of Kushi Izakaya and Sushi is bent over a cutting board chiseling away at a raw chicken, effortlessly slicing up breast strips for us to grill. Cathy and I are standing in the open grill kitchen (if you want to get all fancy about it, you can call it the robata counter) of Kushi sipping green tea and observing the inner workings of my newest favorite sushi spot in the city. Continue reading

Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Alain Roussel of La Ferme (Part II)

Photo courtesy of
‘Chef Alain’s Perfect Chocolate Souffle’
courtesy of ‘CathyLovesDC’

Nestled away in a gorgeous residential neighborhood, a delightfully rustic French restaurant has been catering to nearby residents for the past 25 years. We were greeted with a handshake and said our farewells with the typical kiss on each cheek. Presenting us with perfectly typed out recipes and instructions, Alain was quick to jump right into the good part: eating. He orchestrated our kitchen experience like no chef has done before, alternating a little cooking with a lot of eating.

We started off making his Grand Marnier Soufflé. The presentation of the huge Grand Marnier bottle was enough to make me want to “Ooo” and “Ahh,” but then I asked if I could taste the bucket of pastry cream hanging around on the table, and oh boy, I could have stolen that whole container and taken it for myself and been set for the afternoon – or the week, really, because he said that’s how long it could last for. But there was work to be done, and as it turns out, many, many more pastries and delicious things to be eaten.

Before we made our first soufflé, we paused to drink our perfect French coffee. And while our soufflé was rising in the oven, we were treated to hot pain au chocolat straight from the kitchen of the French patisserie, Lenôtre. Crusty, brown, warm and with the perfectly crunchy essence of butter, the pain au chocolat would be just one, of the many, reasons to return to La Ferme. I can even respect Chef Alain for not attempting to make his own pain au chocolat or croissants, because really, why mess with something so perfect? Continue reading

Capital Chefs, The Features

Capital Chefs: Alain Roussel of La Ferme Restaurant (Part I)

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So I have a few chef crushes in this city. DC is full of adorable, smart, funny and talented chefs – how can a girl not wind up with favorites? I’m not going to show you my whole hand, but I will let you in on one chef crush of mine – this guy. Chef Alain Roussel of La Ferme. After Cathy and I took a trip out to Chevy Chase to learn how to make souffle, we walked out of the restaurant and I gushed “AH! If only he were younger, I’d totally be smitten!” “I know!” agreed Julie Feldman, his PR person, “He’s great!”

Each of these Capital Chef articles is different – some chefs are business-like, some chefs are delightfully casual to the point of throwing eggs at me, and some chefs, my favorite chefs, feed us nonstop. Chef Roussel is the latter – everything about him is warm and old-school. Chef is oh-so-French (fraunchhhh, if you will), and spending a morning learning how to whip up the classic French souffle was such a fun experience. You can’t help but feel comfortable in his kitchen, surrounded by his favorite foods. He brought us (excellent, crave-worthy) coffee, (excellent, crave-worthy) croissants, lemon and sugar crepes, and of course, two souffles. Continue reading

Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Dan Giusti of 1789 (Part II)

Photo courtesy of
‘This just makes me want to eat more gnocchi, immediately, from this spoon’
courtesy of ‘CathyLovesDC’

As you read earlier, Katie and I spent yet another Saturday morning slaving away in the kitchen for you, dear reader. Not that we mind.

While we waited for potatoes to bake (no really), we made ourselves quite comfortable in the 1789 kitchen. We sort of started to feel like a part of the family.  The best part was snacking on the homemade sugar cookie bits, chocolate hazelnut-dipped waffle cone triangles, and sugared, Italian pistachios. We watched a tray full of huge crabs slide into the steamer and a salmon salad artfully prepared for a group event. La de da. How are those potatoes coming along? Not quite completely, perfectly tender? Ok, no worries. There are some pepitos in a Tupperware over here that I might sample.

My dinner party on Saturday night was sort of similar. If those gosh darn potatoes hadn’t taken 2 hours to bake, well, we might have had dinner before 10:00 p.m.

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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Jon Mathieson of Inox (Part II)

Photo courtesy of
‘INOX #46′
courtesy of ‘Chris Rief aka Spodie Odie’

As you read earlier in Katie’s Capital Chefs Part I, we trekked out to Tyson’s corner (on a Saturday) to catch some peace, quiet and scallops with Inox Restaurant’s co-owner Chef Jon Mathieson. After ooo-ing and ahh-ing over his adorable two little kids playing tag and harmlessly tackling each other around the empty restaurant, Katie and I were not disappointed by the no-nonsense cooking style of Chef Mathieson, who had clearly spent some time in the kitchen with his other two (actual) children.

“Which one of you cooks?” I raised my hand. “Alright, then if you’re making this at home, you can start practicing now.” And we were off to a running start. “Stand over here. See this cabbage? See this color? Here, here’s a towel for you to hold the pot handle. Stir it. Now pull it off the heat.” Chef Mathieson coaxed me through the process of emulsifying the butter sauce while perfectly coating and braising the cabbage.

He made it seem so easy. He showed me, in multiple ways, where it could all go wrong, and the lesson was over in half an hour. Could it really be that easy?

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