Food and Drink, The Daily Feed

DCCK’s Hosts 9th Annual Capital Food Fight

Photo courtesy of bonappetitfoodie
Chef Haidar Karoum wins Capital Food Fight
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

Four chefs, three judges, two hosts, 60 restaurants and three hours of a throw down, showdown all add up to one of the biggest food events of the year: DC Central Kitchen’s Capital Food Fight.

This year’s lineup of competing chefs include Jeffrey Buben of Vidalia, Enzo Fargione of Elisir, Guillermo Pernot of Cuba Libre Restaurant and Rum Bar and Adam Sobel of Bourbon Steak. And they’ll all be judged by a food celebrity panel with Padma Lakshmi, Carla Hall and Andrew Zimmern. For repeat guests, you’ll recognize the hosting duo from years past: Jose Andres and Anthony Bourdain. And of course, it’s all for a great cause–raising money for DCCK’s initiatives such as their Culinary Job Training program, as well as that their meal program that prepares 5,000 meals daily for homeless shelters, transitional homes and other nonprofit organizations.

We Love DC’s food editor, yours truly, will be live-tweeting throughout this year’s Capital Food Fight, so follow along with me @bonappetitfoodi.

Tickets are $200 per person, which gets you drinks and tastings from 60 restaurants participating. The 2012 Capital Food Fight is on Monday, October 8th at 6 PM at the Ronald Reagan Building.

Food and Drink, The Features

We Love Food: Jaleo 2.0

You can in fact teach an old dog new tricks my friend. And very quickly at that. Jaleo, Jose Andres’ first ever restaurant in the District, has undergone a  makeover, and with its refreshed modern look comes a seriously delicious menu full of creative twists on Spanish classics. I went to Jaleo the day before it closed for renovations, and exactly a month following- the total time it took to revamp the place- I returned to a completely new experience. Hello Jaleo, Fully Loaded.

Jose Andres really had no idea that when he opened Jaleo in Chinatown as a mere 23 year old kid that he would be setting the foundation for an empire, one that would span across States and elevate tapas to the highest levels. With all of his success (such as making it to the shortlist of Time’s most influential people) Jose Andres continues to be an unofficial Ambassador of the District and of its culinary talent.  Right off the train from the James Beard Foundation Awards, Jose came straight to Jaleo and spoke with us extensively about the new restaurant, but furthermore, about our city, it’s food, and the people behind it. In his words, we need more “cheerleaders” – whether journalists, bloggers, or simply customers – that cheer on our chefs and those in the industry to build DC’s reputation as one of a food-town, and for its tasty offerings to no longer be an after-thought.

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Eat Like Me, Food and Drink, The Daily Feed

Sugar and Champagne Affair

Photo courtesy of Plantains & Kimchi
chocolate custard, cocoa crumble with roasted banana ice cream @ Watershed- Washington, DC
courtesy of Plantains & Kimchi
It’s almost time for the Sugar and Champagne Affair — back next month for the eleventh year. As the name implies, Sugar and Champagne is a dessert and bubbly reception that benefits the Washington Humane Society.

Once again hosted by Chef Todd and Ellen Gray, the event highlights all things sugary and sweet, with chefs showcasing their confections. Of course, leashed dogs are welcome and encouraged to attend. So walk around with your favorite four-legged friend and eat desserts and doggie hors d’oeurvres respectively.

Chefs on-hand for the VIP reception include:

New this year: you can also meet contestants from TLC’s show Next Great Baker. Held Wednesday, February 1st, at the Ronald Reagan Building, the event begins at 6pm with the VIP Chefs’ Tasting Room followed by the General Reception at 7pm. Click here to purchase tickets.

Food and Drink

Rogue Sessions: Celebrity Chefs Rally to Support RJ Cooper

Rogue 24 by RJ Cooper
Courtesy Angie Salame

It is an unfortunate circumstance that will bring together some of the most talented chefs from the nation for a culinary showdown of epic proportions. Chef RJ Cooper, the mastermind behind Rogue 24, will undergo open heart surgery this month to correct a genetic heart defect which could be life-threatening if not treated.

In his place, ten of Cooper’s closest friends – who also happen to be some of the most talented chefs in the nation – will each take over the kitchen at Rogue 24 for a week. The impressive roster includes José Andrés, 2011 James Beard Outstanding Chef, David Posey from Chicago’s 4-star restaurant Blackbird and formerly of Alinea, Spike Gjerde, chef/owner of Woodberry Kitchen, Nancy Oakes, James Beard Best Chef California and chef/owner of Boulevard, and Top Chef contestant Jennifer Caroll, who worked with Eric Ripert at 10 Arts in Philadelphia and Le Bernadin in New York. And that’s just the half of them.

Each Rogue Session will cost $185 per person, and includes a 24-course dinner which will feature twelve dishes prepared by that week’s visiting chef and twelve Rogue 24 favorites, and wine and cocktail pairings by celebrity bartender Derek Brown and Beverage Director JP Fetherston. Tickets to these coveted sessions will be sold one week in advance exclusively through Gilt City. The first session kicks-off January 10th and will be lead by Top Chef contestant Bryan Voltaggio of VOLT. A portion of the ticket sales will be donated to Share Our Strength.

Now, if this isn’t the definition of chef love I don’t know what is.

Food and Drink

ROC Guide Highlights DC Restaurants

Photo courtesy of
‘Ben’s Chili Bowl’
courtesy of ‘Michael T. Ruhl’

When picking a restaurant for your next meal out, why not choose a place where workers haven’t coughed all over your dinner because they’ve been forced to work with the flu?

Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United) and their local branch ROC-DC just released their first annual Diners’ Guide: a Zagat-like booklet that scores national and local restaurants based on how they treat their workers. The guide includes the 150 highest revenue restaurants in America as well as some local spots already working toward better standards for their employees.

Some of the results aren’t exactly shocking (no, Hooters doesn’t lead the industry in fair treatment of their workers). Others may be more of a surprise: Capital Grille, for example, makes it onto a special list of shame for restaurants charged with discrimination and wage theft.

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Food and Drink, Foodie Roundup, The Daily Feed

Give Back While Eating

Photo courtesy of
‘panettone inside’
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.

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Food and Drink, Foodie Roundup, Penn Quarter, The Daily Feed, We Love Food

We Love Food: Quick Update on Restaurant Happenings

Photo courtesy of
‘America Eats Tavern- Washington, DC’
courtesy of ‘Plantains & Kimchi’

For those of you who avidly follow the food scene, this all might be old news. But to those of you who don’t eat, sleep and drink DC food coverage, here’s a little roundup on some of the latest restaurant happenings around DC.

Have no fear about not getting to José Andrés’ America Eats Tavern in time before it closes. The restaurant announced that it will be staying open through July 4, 2012–closing exactly a year after it first opened this past summer. Don’t forget that the “What’s Cooking Uncle Sam?” exhibit, which served as inspiration for the restaurant concept and of which Andrés is the chief culinary advisor to, will close on January 3rd.

In “ancient” news by classic journalistic standards, Mike Isabella is opening a restaurant in the former Hook space in Georgetown. Hook and its sister restaurant, Tackle Box, had been closed since a fire in late June. Eater DC has a full recap of the drama behind how the story of Isabella’s new restaurant broke. All of that aside, Bandolero will be a “modern Mexican small-plates concept,” with dishes such as salsas, ceviches, tacos, and Isabella’s version of fajitas, according to a news release. Bandolero is set to open in early 2012.

Staying in the Georgetown area, PAUL Bakery has launched a second location in DC, which officially opened its doors on November 21st. The french bakery has enough seating for 30 to 40 patrons in Georgetown, or you can just grab a baguette to go seven days a week. PAUL had opened its first DC location in May 2011.

And lastly, unlike the other news about restaurant openings, The Washington Post reported that Ba Bay in Eastern Market closed its doors. As Tim Carman reported, Ba Bay closed “due to circumstances beyond our [the owner's] control.” No word on whether owners and cousins Denise Nguyen and Khoa Nguyen will open another Vietnamese-style restaurant or another Ba Bay elsewhere.

Food and Drink

First Look: Graffiato

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

America Eats Tavern: Pop in Before It’s Gone

AE 001
This isn’t what we at We Love DC call a “First Look,” since America Eats Tavern has already been open for more than one month. Even more importantly, it won’t be around forever. Instead, this a friendly recommendation that you be sure to check out this pop-up restaurant brought to us by Chef José Andrés, before you miss your chance.

Eating here is definitely an experience. This red, white and blue (on the outside) restaurant opened on July 4th. Plainly put, America Eats Tavern is a six-month “benefit” destination in support of the National Archives Experience exhibition program, “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam.”

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Food and Drink, Foodie Roundup, The Features, We Love Food

We Love Food: DC Eats for August

Photo courtesy of
‘Cafe Atlantico’
courtesy of ‘needlessspaces’
Put on your elastic waistband pants, people. There’s plenty to eat and do in the city for the next few weeks. So click on through and you’ll find where you should be wining and dining this month.
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Food and Drink, The Daily Feed

Jaleo’s 9th Annual Paella Festival

Photo courtesy of
‘Paella at Jaleo’
courtesy of ‘bonappetitfoodie’

We all know it’s been pretty hot out there, so tear yourself away from your kitchen and take advantage of Jaleo’s ninth annual paella festival.

Until the end of July, Jaleo’s paella festival has a variety of paellas made from recipes from Chef Rafael Vidal from Restaurante Levante in Benisanó, Spain. Vidal, for those of you who don’t know, is legendary in the world of paella and his family has served paella to the royal family in Spain for three generations. There’s no cutting corners with Vidal–he makes his paella over a wood fire in Spain and uses recipes that honor the traditions of Spanish cuisine.

A few of the paellas being featured include paella de verduras (vegetables), paella de Iberico de bellota (paella with Iberico pork belly and cauliflower), lobster paella, paella with octopus and garlic scapes and the traditional Valenciana paella with chicken and rabbit. Personally, I’d recommend the Valenciana and the “Fideo Negro con pulpo y ajetes” paella. The Valenciana is a classic, while the Fideo Negro paella might be right for those of you whose taste buds are a little more adventurous. The Fideo Negro paella has pieces of meaty octopus and is a deep, rich black from the octopus ink, topped off with that refreshing bite from garlic scapes.

For more information and the paella menu, click here.

Food and Drink, The Daily Feed

DC Brings Home Two James Beard Awards

Photo courtesy of
’15/365: The Line’
courtesy of ‘Amber Wilkie Photography’

Last night the Academy Awards of the food world went down in New York City, and DC took home two James Beard Foundation Awards.

Chef José Andrés won for Outstanding Chef and Tim Carman of The Washington Post (and previously at the City Paper) won for Food-Related Columns and Commentary.

Some of you might have seen the tweets about it, but I’ve included a couple particular charming ones from the two winners after the break. You can find the full list of winners here. Congratulations to José and Tim!

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Food and Drink, The Daily Feed

Food Tweet of the Week

Photo courtesy of
‘Lobster Truck’
courtesy of ‘yostinator’
It’s funny how self-promotion can either come across as annoying and uneccessary or cute and endearing. Food trucks pretty much have to promote themselves to survive, and make sure customers know what they’re offering, when, and where.

In this case the popular Red Hook Lobster Pound was hoping to score another popularity title. After one month of food-truck matchups at Washingtonian, the championship round featured the lobster truck and Solar Crepes. Red Hook called out for help from one of DC’s (and Spain’s and Vegas’) most well-known chefs.
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Food and Drink, The Daily Feed

This Week in Food

Photo courtesy of
‘me + scallops = omg bff!’
courtesy of ‘skampy’
A Big Deal

The week’s biggest food news? Obviously the 2011 RAMMY noms. We Love DC eater Ashley writes that a few restaurants like Bourbon Steak, Citronelle, and Equinox show up a number of times, “but there are a few dark horses out there like Ted’s Bulletin, The Majestic and Liberty Tavern to round out the competition.” The winners will be announced at a ceremony on June 26th, and voters will be able to fill out a ballot that will run in the April 28th issue of The Washington City Paper or online. Check out the full list.

Actually, even bigger: the James Beard Award nominees! Up for Best Chef Awards (in the Mid-Atlantic region) are Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Johnny Monis of Komi, and Obelisk’s Peter Pastan. The only national chef or restaurant nomination was for the ubiquitous Jose Andres for “Outstanding Chef.” I back anyone behind Zaytinya, Minibar and Oyamel.

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Food and Drink, Penn Quarter, The Daily Feed

Café Atlántico Celebrates Carnaval

The Caipirinha
The Caipirinha
by Samer Farha

Although chef José Andrés has yet to respond to my offer to judge a Gin and Tonic showdown (which still stands) it’s worth noting that tonight from 4-6, there’s a free cachaça tasting at Café Atlántico. It’s the first event in the restaurant’s Brazilian Carnaval, which culminates next Tuesday with a three-course, prix fixe dinner, samba performance, and dance party. If you’re looking for a different sort of Mardi Gras experience, you could do worse than Carnaval.

If you’re not familiar with it, cachaça, a spirit distilled from raw sugarcane, can be considered a cousin of Rhum Agricole, which itself is not to be confused with other types of rum distilled from molasses. Like rum, it can be light or dark depending on the process and aging. Unlike rum, cachaça has up to six grams per liter of added sugar. Confused? Afraid? Don’t be. If you like rum, you’ll probably like cachaça too. The classic cocktail featuring cachaça is a caipirinha. In its purest expression, it is a sipping cocktail consisting of little more than muddled lime and sugar, crushed ice, and cachaça, in an old fashioned glass. Some bartenders serve theirs in a Collins (tall) glass, topped with soda, which makes an excellent refresher in warm weather.

Tonight at Café Atlántico you can sample two different brands of cachaça: from Leblon, casked in Cognac barrels, and Novo Fogo, whose silver cachaça is rested in steel tanks so it is still white. Also part of its Carnaval celebration, the restaurant hosts a capoeira demonstration on Sunday and the aforementioned dinner on Tuesday. Reservations are recommended for the weekend and required for Tuesday night’s dinner.

I’ll be there Tuesday night to lean on Chef Andrés personally on the matter of his bar’s gin and tonic. Oh, and to try the food. I’ll report back on that subject next week.

Food and Drink, The Daily Feed, We Love Drinks

Gin and Tonic Throwdown?

Here is another of my gin y tonic..... on Twitpic
“Here is another of my gin y tonic”
via @chefjoseandres

Who doesn’t love a little smack talk?

After Adam Bernbach’s recipe got a little love from the Post (and, for what it’s worth, from Katie Nelson in these pages) Chef José Andrés Took matters into his own hands, or at least his own twitter account, posting “thats a great drink, agree! and i love estadio but aint a gin and tonic! let me post my gin&tonic(love controversy)”.

Now Derek Brown has offered to host such a showdown at the Columbia Room. I said it to him on twitter, and now I’ll say it here: Jenn and I will be happy to assist with any judging. Just make sure that Todd Thrasher is included too, since Adam said his gin and tonic was the inspiration.

Food and Drink, The Daily Feed

Food Tweet of the Week: Chef Geoff Tracy

Photo courtesy of
‘shrimp n grits’
courtesy of ‘@heylovedc’
New (and even old-time) Tweeters can learn a thing or two from Chef Geoff Tracy.  With @chegeoffs, Tracy might not hold the record for the most tweets per day, but all the messages he sends out are either informative (specials of the day), enticing (pictures from the kitchen), or funny (as you will see below).

The famed chef from Chef Geoff’s and Lia’s writes on his Twitter profile “Don’t get pissy here.” Love it. Tracy has about 1,700 followers and is constantly telling them what’s on his mind and what’s coming up at his restaurants. His account is unique and personal.

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All Politics is Local, Downtown, Essential DC, Life in the Capital, News, People, The District, The Features, WTF?!

And For Mayor, We Endorse…

Photo courtesy of
‘Mayoralty elections (LOC)’
courtesy of ‘The Library of Congress’

As the countdown to voting day continues, many have asked us here at WeLoveDC just who we’re going to endorse for Mayor of the District. We’ve had a long and exhausting debate on our author email list, and quite frankly, we couldn’t come up with a unanimous choice, much less a majority decision. So instead, we decided to offer up our own endorsements for mayor, in our own words.

You may be surprised at who we picked. Continue reading

Food and Drink, The Features, We Love Drinks

We Love Drinks: Owen Thomson

Photo courtesy of
‘Owen’
courtesy of ‘Samer Farha’

We Love Drinks continues our series where we look behind the bar, profiling the many people – from mixologists to bartenders, sommeliers to publicans – who make your drinks experience happen.

Owen Thomson has an interesting tattoo on his arm. His sister points it out to me as we sit at Cafe Atlantico’s bar, while he rustles up a selection of cocktails both old and new. “Abandon Hope All Who Enter Here” scrolls across his forearm, the inscription above the gates of Hell in Dante’s Inferno. Not an atypical tattoo choice perhaps but as the story behind it unfolds, it seems there’s nothing typical about the man now helming the bar at Jose Andres’ “nuevo latino” restaurant.

A native Washingtonian, creator of the cocktail program at Bourbon in Adams Morgan, president of the DC Craft Bartenders Guild, with studies in archaeology and the law under his belt – all this might make you expect that Owen would have a bit of an extreme Type-A vibe about him. But instead he’s completely down-to-earth, with a dry wit and a passion for educating both consumers and restaurants about the glories of fresh ingredients. Fellow WLDC author Samer and I sat down with him one Saturday afternoon to find out more about Owen’s plans for his new role behind the bar at Cafe Atlantico, and what happens when you mix the molecular gastronomy of Minibar with a rare 1950′s cocktail book…

“I want to turn this into a smoke and a fog and they said ‘oh yeah we can do that.’ Cool!”

Cool indeed.
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Downtown, Food and Drink, The Features, We Love Drinks

Drinks Preview: Oyamel’s Tequila and Mezcal Fest

Photo courtesy of
‘Oyamel 4′
courtesy of ‘maxedaperture’

Tequila flies under the radar as connoisseur’s drink. It’s had an unfair representation from co-eds pounding back shots on spring break in Cancun and middle aged women drinking slushy margaritas by some pool. But Tequila, much like anything, can be done right and can be done wrong. Chef Jose Andres and Co. at Oyamel want to highlight the former, something that they do annually with their two week Tequila and Mezcal Festival.

This celebration of all things agave is becoming a highlight of the DC cocktail scene. Not only do you get to sample some of Mexico’s finest in carefully constructed flights, you find some truly creative cocktails crafted by the mixologists at Oyamel, and from a few guests they bring in. The festival kicked off Monday night and I was fortunate enough to be able to sample a few of their highlighted drinks and appetizers.

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