The past two months have brought a variety of assignments and pleasures: interviews with Bravo’s Top Chef finalist Kelly Liken; BLT Steak’s Laurent Tourondel; Eric Ripert, star of the PBS series “Avec Eric”; a meeting at the Sofitel with patriarch Giorgio Gucci, third generation of the Gucci empire, in town to testify to Congress about the pervasiveness of black market goods and to offer ideas for new ways of enforcing existing laws. Of course, we all want the latest accessory. But he warns to stay away from the sidewalk vendor handbag and wristwatch knockoffs. He tells me plans are to arrest the buyers as well!
Giorgio Gucci Launches 50 Year Old Connoisseur Cognac
Gucci is launching an ultra premium brand connoisseur cognac, “Giorgio G”, this week at the Pierre Hotel in New York City where his 30-, 50- and over 50-year old cognacs will sell at auction with the remaining 4,000 bottles offered to collectors. The indelibly charming Signori Gucci completed our interview with a kiss on the hand. Viva Italia!
5,000 Bottles of Wine on the Wall (Countdown to Zero)
A stay at the Vail Cascade Resort and Spa in Colorado earlier in the month brought us to pinnacles of dining higher than Vail Mountain itself. The food scene there is as breathtaking as Vail Mountain. We dined at the resort’s Atwater Restaurant, where dinner is often served entirely by candlelight overlooking the sparkling
Gore Creek. Larkspur has a wine list so extensive it was in “mouseprint” so as to allow guests to lift the weighty leather tome in order to select one of 5,000 bottles from over 500 labels.
Restaurant Kelly Liken, she of recent Top Chef fame, created an elk carpaccio stole my heart and thoughtfully celebrated my birthday with a personalized menu.
Paradise Among the Turkeys and Elf Watermelons
One of my favorite local chefs, Robert Townsend, prepared a spirit-soothing luncheon and turkey tasting at Ayrshire Farm (You can order your organic and humanely raised heritage turkey from their Home Farm store in Middleburg) and introduced me to a new vegetable from his garden. Have you ever seen a Mexican sour gherkin? So cute! It looks like an elf’s watermelon. In its natural state, it is crunchy, tart and lemony, like a kosher pickle. Conveniently, you can grow it in a pot with a trellis. How perfect!
The gorgeous early fall afternoon was shared with two-time James Beard award-winner Joan Nathan, whose latest book, “Quiches, Kugels and Cous Cous” is set to be released next month. Joining him was entrepreneur extraordinaire Mitch Berliner, whose company, MeatCrafters, makes freshly cooked, cured and smoked meats that sell at the Bethesda Central Farm Market. Mitch was a co-founder back in the day, before the term “locavore” came on the scene—if you go back that far.
Go-Go Techno for Bittman
Meanwhile, Mark Bittman, in his latest foray into the techno-world of home cooks, has launched an app for iPhones based on his book “How to Cook Everything Essentials”, which is the “Joy of Cooking” for young moderns.
Tourists Wowed by Cheesecake “Ice Cream” Cones
A private behind-the-scenes tour of The Source’s catering kitchens, led by Executive Chef David Spychalski, proved to be delicious. After shooting the beautiful food in the Newseum’s cafeteria, I sat down to enjoy it, dining on tempura soft-shell crab, sushi, and all manner of scrumptious desserts. Heads up: if you’re invited to an event at the Newseum, expect scrumptious food. Spychalski, who has been perfecting some creative new offerings, then served up samples to the surprised tourists who had been eagerly watching the whole tasting. Grateful, bug-eyed and thrilled were their reactions to cheesecake ice cream cones, chocolate truffle lollipops and massive trays of glistening sushi. The kids, thinking they were part of a TV show, became instant autograph hounds.
Local “Top Chef” News
A premiere viewing party for “Top Chef Desserts” was held at Hook for pastry chef and “Top Chef” contestant Heather Chittum. Although she was nowhere to be seen, (Bravo contractual restrictions
were in full force) her spirit was very much alive with a table the length of the restaurant chockfull of her signature desserts. Her crave-inducing Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart and Whoopie Pies were paired with champagne cocktails while guests watched Chittum on the big screen. Virtual Heather, but real desserts!
The town is abuzz with the news that “Top Chef” alumnus Mike Isabella will open his new restaurant, Graffiato, at 707 6th Street with investor Bryan Voltaggio next February. Isabella was the former head chef at José Andrés’ Zaytinya, still one of our favorite spots.
Eat, Chat, Drink – Ayurvedic Style
My search for an Ayurvedic Indian restaurant brought me last month to the Van Ness area, where I dined at Indian Ocean, the only one of its kind in our area. The Ayurvedic style of cooking reflects the ancient Hindu art of medicine and prolonging life, and owner Raj Kapoor is an avid messenger of the philosophy.
Everything we sampled, including the traditional dishes like Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Roghan and tandoori oven baked dishes, were so much fresher and lighter. The secret: they don’t use butter, ghee or heavy cream. Also noteworthy is that nothing is canned and no flour or sugar is ever used; only yogurt cream and olive oil.
With a menu that favors Goan and Northern Indian cuisine there is much to like, and the UDC and Harvard Law students fill up the place at lunchtime. Their exclusive use of halal meats brings in the local embassy crowd who often use Indian Ocean to cater their receptions.
Mango, mint, tamarind and date chutneys are made in-house, and are more delicate and less sugary than most versions we know. Standouts were Palak Gosht, Samosa Chat, Onion Kulcha, Kabuli Naan, bread stuffed with raisins, cashews and almonds. The Goan influences fill the menu with seafood dishes using lobster, trout, salmon and prawns, and there is a wealth of vegan dishes. They are open seven days a week with a champagne brunch on Sundays.
Red Fruit Festival is a Red Hot Hit
The first annual Mid-Atlantic Red Fruit Festival, held in the Pavilion Room at the Ronald Reagan Building, was a red-hot hit! In a contest sponsored by the Washington Post, winning home cooks from our area were paired with top local chefs who recreated, and in some cases amped up their recipes. My favorites were food blogger April Fulton’s Tomato Tarte dessert. Fulton, whose blog is TheFoodScribe.com, was paired with Chef Xavier Deshayes. She told me Dessaye added hazelnuts to her tart crust and a sugared mint leaf. Bravo to him! It was highly addictive. Another winner in my book was Jessica Sidman whose blog, TheFrozenFix.com, reports on her ice cream and sorbet experiments. Sidman was paired with local chef Michael Lund, formerly of Zynodoa in Staunton, VA, who consults with restaurants and teaches Farm-to-Table classes at Stratford University. Lund served her Green Tomato Marbled Goat Cheese Ice Cream in mini black pepper tuiles topped with crushed corn nuts.
Fashion for Autism – Features Breakout New York Designer
Throngs of Georgetown’s adorable fashionistas ganged up for the cause at City Tavern Club. The venerable old watering hole was rocking with disco lights, a performance by Julliard concert pianist Edvinas Minkstimas, and a full-blown red carpet fashion show with designs for men and women by Colombian-born Edwing D’Angelo. The silent auction featured a pair of glittering eight-inch heels by Fever Footwear. Well, I suppose you could just wear them to bed! Miss DC 2010 Stephanie Williams was on hand to help us eat the chocolate and vanilla cupcakes from Serendipity3. When, oh when, will they serve the first Frrrozen Hot Chocolate confection in DC?