Food and Drink, The Features

Summer Loving, and Eating

Photo courtesy of kimberlyfaye
courtesy of kimberlyfaye

Dates. Those awkward, exciting, beautiful things we all go on at some point. I am by no means an expert in this field- quite far from it- and I don’t have a magical solution for how to make your next date the best you ever had, so unfortunately you won’t be finding the next We Love DC dating service here (sigh). The inspiration for this post really came from a conversation with a friend of mine the other day. He asked me where he should take a girl out, wanting to strike the right balance between serious young professional, trendy and casual. I realized many of us have gone through this mental exercise before. The exhausting over-planning and over- analyzing we do: choosing the right spot for that first interaction (or second or third), focusing on every detail from time, to dress code, to the big goodbye, mulling over tiny logistics as a method of defense to shift our thoughts away from the weirdness that could ensue.  But enough of that.

I think a shared meal is the perfect way to break the ice, a way to bond over something simple that brings anyone, no matter what level of culinary expertise you may have, together. We all share stories around a dinner table, have memories of a favorite meal, and can reveal oneself through a dish. So for me, sharing a meal is a perfect way of getting to know someone, whether it be a sit down dinner or a casual picnic. I decided to write some recommendations for where you can break bread and the ice along the way, in case you need to outsource thinking on the next time your big date is lined up. I polled some of the We Love DC crew for their suggestions as well, as not all of us are food focused daters.

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Food and Drink, The Features, We Love Food

Winter Restaurant Week 2012

Photo courtesy of Daquella manera
Cena courtesy of Daquella manera

So you are one week into your New Years resolutions of getting fit, eating healthy and exercising more… Good for you! Now get over it, because starting January 9th restaurants across the District will be offering killer deals for Winter Restaurant Week. From January 9-15, select restaurants across the city will offer a three-course lunch for $20.12  and three-course dinners for $35.12. Best part is, no mass daily-deal purchase necessary, all you need is a reservation. Now, who doesn’t love a delicious bargain?

Restaurant Week is a week to go big rather than stay home, as some of the pricier dining options in DC become immediately accessible. It is a chance for you to cross out some of those places you’ve had on your list for a while, instead of waiting for the next birthday/anniversary/you-name-it special occasion, you’re excused to dine with the big boys and save a pretty penny too. While some haters (I was indeed one of them) worry that the lower price point comes at the expense of quality, the restaurants below are quality-driven and promise a memorable dining experience regardless of the end bill. And let’s remember, it is their reputation on the line after all and consistency is key. So stop drinking the hate-orade and embrace the feast week.

Here are some suggestions:

Art and Soul- Art Smith will offer an extensive menu that includes some of his signature dishes, as well as a specially priced wine list for the week. Now that’s being a Southern Gentleman.  Menu highlights include shrimp and grits, charcuterie of the day, Yorkshire pig and cabbage, pan fried flounder, and sweet offerings like chocolate bread pudding and apple tart. Update: Art and Soul will be extending their restaurant week menu through January 22nd.

701 - Chef Ed Witt has developed an extensive and exciting menu, mouth-watering options include lemongrass lobster bisque, bourbon caramel apple salad with mustard greens, veal sweetbreads, red wine beef short-ribs, cider braised rabbit leg and desserts including an upscale s’more- chocolate bar with vanilla bean gelato, marshmallow and graham crackers. Need I say more?

Rasika- Reservations at Chef Vikram Sunderam’s Indian mecca are near impossible to snag, so book now if you want to dine here during Restaurant Week. The Penn Quarter powerhouse is consistently delicious and will undoubtedly be offering some of its best dishes.

Photo courtesy of angela n.
Art & Soul courtesy of angela n.

Fiola- Everything here from the classic antipastis to the homemade pastas and innovative fish and meat offerings is spot on delicious. As Fiola’s first Winter Restaurant Week, chef Fabio Trabocchi is sure to deliver. I also recommend you spend the money you would have on the meal and try many a drinks by Fiola’s resident mixologist, Jeff Faile. These men know what they are doing. Continue reading

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

Capital Chefs: Mike Isabella of Graffiato (Part 2)

Photo courtesy of bonappetitfoodie
Mike Isabella’s Pork and Beans
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

Pork belly, the stuff of Gods. And if you’ve had the delectable version at Graffiato, you know exactly what I’m talking about–melt in your mouth pork with that nice seared, caramelized outer edge, complimented by a roughly pureed bed of cannelini beans. Chef Mike Isabella shared the recipe with me in the most recent Capital Chefs which you can find after the jump. On a cold winter’s day, this dish is perfect.
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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, Penn Quarter, The Features

Capital Chefs: Mike Isabella of Graffiato (Part 1)

Photo courtesy of bonappetitfoodie
Mike Isabella of Graffiato
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

Chef Mike Isabella describes himself as intense, focused and driven. And at first you might be intimidated by the tattoos or the serious face when he asks a line cook about a certain dish, not to mention his culinary prowess that landed him on Top Chef and as a runner-up on Top Chef All Stars. But then you mention you’re both from New Jersey or make an astute comment about a dish, and right away the ice is broken, the conversation is off to a start and you wonder how anyone could describe the chef as anything but affable and welcoming.

Like many of the chefs I talk to, Isabella started cooking at a young age just by keeping busy in the kitchen with this grandmother. “I loved the smell of her cooking. Helping her kept me occupied,” he said. From there, becoming a chef was a no-brainer. “This was the only thing I wanted to do. So I knew I couldn’t fail and I worked my ass off.”

The northern Jersey native started out at The Restaurant School in New York, followed by a stint in Philadelphia working with the likes of Stephen Starr, Jose Garces and Marcus Samuelsson. After Philadelphia, Isabella moved to Atlanta to work at a greek restaurant, Kyma, before coming to DC to be the executive chef at Jose Andres’ Zaytinya for three years. Today, you probably know Isabella best from Top Chef and from Graffiato, his Italian restaurant he opened in Chinatown this past summer. “I had grown up in New Jersey, went to New York and then Philly and Atlanta, but I couldn’t find the right fit for me,” Isabella says. In a goldilocks-esque moment, it turned out that DC was just right for the chef. “DC is the perfect size,” he says, adding that the farms in the area are a huge asset. “This city sticks together. We all [in the culinary scene] support one another and make each other better. Chefs here always welcome new people with open arms.” Continue reading

Food and Drink

First Look: Graffiato


Earlier this year it was Toki Underground and Shake Shack that were pretty much the buzz everywhere before they opened their doors. When that died down, Graffiato became the restaurant everyone was talking about. The 130-seat dining spot in Chinatown comes to us courtesy Top Chef Mike Isabella, and it has been consistently crowded since it opened in June.

As most foodies can tell you, Isabella is no stranger to DC. He spent three years in a kitchen a few blocks northwest of Graffiato, as the executive chef of Jose Andres’ Zaytinya. If that doesn’t ring a bell, he also appeared on Season Six of Top Chef and he was the runner up on Top Chef All-Stars.

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Food and Drink, The Daily Feed

This Week in Food

Photo courtesy of
‘Hank’s Oyster Bar’
courtesy of ‘jichen2′
Running Indefinitely: Kushi Izakaya & Sushi will donate 100% of the sales of its popular Buta Bara Kushiyaki (Pork Belly Kushiyaki) to the Japanese Red Cross to support earthquake and tsunami disaster relief in Japan. The Pork Belly Kushiyaki, made with North Carolina pigs and cooked sous vide for several hours, is Kushi’s best-selling menu item averaging monthly sales of approximately $7,500.00. 

Getting Bigger…Come May Hank’s Oyster Bar will double in size, adding a bar & lounge as well as a private dining room. So what does this mean? Late night hours! Two am on weeknights and 3 am weekends. Our devoted readers might also remember that restaurant partners Jamie Leeds and Sandy Lewis from Hank’s sold CommonWealth Gastro Pub in Columbia Heights last month.

Opening: Because I live for press releases with a lot of adjectives and love the movie Burlesque…”From the restaurateurs behind distinctive dining concepts OYA and SEI comes SAX, an exclusive lounge and restaurant with provocative live entertainment designed to amuse, please and divert the senses with opulent grandeur.” Look for it in May.

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Food and Drink

All Your 2011 Restaurant Openings To Look Forward To (Part 2)

Photo courtesy of
‘Funny fro-zen-yo Signage’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

Yesterday we previewed half of the upcoming restaurants of 2011. Here’s the second half.

District Commons and Burger, Tap & Shake

Don’t you just love the whole restaurant within a restaurant idea? Well, whether you do or not, Passion Food Hospitality (Acadiana and DC Coast) will soon open their sixth and I guess also 7th location. Chef Jeff Tunks along with David Wizenberg and Gus DiMillo will serve up American cuisine at District Commons, plus burgers, double fried fries and adult milkshakes at the counter-service BT & S. Both Foggy Bottom restaurants will share a beer menu featuring 20 American small batch beers.

2200 Pennsylvania Ave NW

Expected Arrival: Spring 2011 Continue reading