The Latest Dish

November 3, 2011


-Mike Anderson of Mango Mike’s has been Alexandria-centric in his restaurant ventures. Staying within those borders, he has set his sights on Delray. He also set his sights on barbecue—and found the BBQ Boys, aka three lobbyists from whom he has licensed the name of his new barbecue restaurant – Pork Barrel BBQ. The tag line makes it game-set-match: “Monumental Flavor.” Next door, he will open Chop Chop, an Asian fusion restaurant. The third space is a lounge, open evenings, serving sushi and saki. The three spaces will share a kitchen, storage area, and general manager.

Cathal and Meshelle Armstrong will expand their Old Town Alexandria empire with a butchery, market, and bakery on Washington Street, and furthermore with Virtue Feed & Grain, a casual Irish and American gastropub named after the grain store that used to be there. More recently, it’s where Olsson’s bookstore used to be on Union Street.

Thompson Hospitality’s American Tap Room will open its second location in Bethesda. Similar to the original in Reston, the Bethesda restaurant will feature entertainment in the form of a piano. It will be in fine form for Sunday jazz brunch or, of course, if Sir Elton John happens to stop by. A July opening is planned.

Food & Wine Co. will open on Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda this summer where Pizzeria Uno used to be. It is geared for those who love wine with their meal, but not the usual restaurant mark-up price. Owner Francis Namin is a veteran of Centro Italian Grill (also in Bethesda) and Red Tomato Café in D.C. He plans to charge only a $5 mark-up, which is more like a corkage fee. Francis is not hiding the actual price, as he sells wine at Cork 57, his Bethesda-based wine shop. The food will salute French, Italian and American cuisine with everything from steamed mussels & fries, to pasta & pizzas, to sandwiches & burgers. Paolo Buffa, formerly of Centro Italian Grill, has been named executive chef. He will be joined by Kyle Christie, from Wolfgang Puck Group. A June opening is planned.

No sleep this summer for the Matchbox guys. They plan to open a third location on the-very-happening Barracks Row on Eighth Street S.E.. Plans are for DC-3 Dogs to be a sandwich shop with something special for hot dog aficionados, i.e. the “Chi-town” char dog with tomatoes and sport peppers as well as a traditional Coney Island dog. Partner Drew Kim is excited to work his secret homemade kimchi recipe into a beef dog recipe.

The H Street corridor (aka the Atlas District) keeps challenging the rest of the culinary community in D.C. Next to open: The Queen Vic, a British-style gastropub, from the team behind The Pug. A summer opening is forecast. The gravely named Italian restaurant Vendetta is a collaboration between Atlas impresario Joe Englert and Teddy Folkman, the chef at Granville Moore’s. Rest assured, the restaurant’s name will not mirror the effects eat your meal.

Quick Hits: Café Manna will take over the location of Good Thyme Food Court at 1900 M St. serving much of the same. Michel is the official name of Michel Richard’s new restaurant in The Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner. An early autumn opening is scheduled. Dave Crane, formerly of Morton’s in Bethesda, is now general manger of the Lexus President’s Club operated by Levy Restaurants, at Nationals Park. New Jersey-based McLoone’s Pier House is slated to open at National Harbor the end of June, serving American-style food both indoors and outdoors. Pizzeria Orso, Falls Church’s upcoming pizzeria with a pedigree, is aiming for an early June opening.

Openings update: Crumbs Bake Shop (another cupcake joint) signed its first location in Union Station. Over on the other side of town, in Georgetown, Sprinkles hopes to be selling cupcakes by July. Owner Qaiser Kazmi is looking towards a July opening for Merzi, his Indian QSR concept on Seventh Street in Penn Quarter. Roberto Donna’s Galileo III is slated to open where Butterfield 9 used to be by end of June. Carmine’s in Penn Quarter is aiming for an end of summer August/September opening. The new Great American Restaurant Group restaurant in Fairfax, Ozzie’s Corner Kitchen, is slated to open in early October.

Mad Fox Brewery will be the second brew pub to open in quaint Falls Church. Bill Madden, of Leesburg’s Vintage 50 Restaurant & Brew Lounge, is the brewmaster. Russel Cunningham, formerly of Agraria and Centerplate catering, is the executive chef.

Linda Roth Conte is president of Linda Roth Associates, Inc (LRA) specializing in making creative connections through media relations, marketing initiatives, community outreach and special events for the hospitality industry. Contact Linda at 703-417-2700 or or visit her web site at

The Latest Dish

November 2, 2011

Hank’s Oyster Bar & Lounge at 1624 Q Street NW has doubled in size with both inside and outside dining as well as a private upstairs room that can accommodate up to 24 guests. Architect Eric Gronning transformed the space into a hip neighborhood oasis. For those into creative cocktail menus, that has expanded too as chef/owner Jamie Leeds hired a beverage director, Dana Mosbarger, and a mixologist, Megan Coyle. If you appreciate great limoncello (as I do), Megan created two types of delicious, authentic house-made limoncello.


Michael Sternberg re-acquired Harry’s Tap Room in Clarendon and plans to re-open it as Market Tavern later this month … Härth at Hilton McLean Tysons Corner just opened their new 52-seat outdoor patio complete with fire pits and fall cocktails to warm guests up inside and out … Ballston’s Willow Restaurant has expanded with a new bakery and casual bistro (lower price points) inside. Instead of opening a new restaurant, chefs/owners and wife/husband, Tracy O’Grady and Brian Wolken expanded within their existing space. The bistro’s small plates menu offers a variety of vegetarian options. The new “Kate at Willow” allows Kate Jansen to stretch her pastry chef creativity, which is a bonus for us all. The Ritz-Carlton, Georgetown has changed Degrees Lounge into Degrees Bistro, a French-inspired bistro with banquette seating for 46, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and casual bar food. This new dining space was made necessary by their conversion of Fahrenheit restaurant into an event space.

He’s not just the master of fine dining French restaurants. Michel Richard plans to open a restaurant focused on meatballs in Penn Quarter at 626 E St. NW. Not just meatballs, but meatballs to be ordered with pasta, salad or sandwiches at prices up to $10. Slated to open in November, it will be called Meatballs, which is also the name of one of my favorite Bill Murray movies.

Chef & GM Update:

Joe Sluger has been named the new general manager for The Melting Pot in Gaithersburg. The new chef de cuisine at Watershed by Todd Gray is Godofredi Vaquerano, who has spent 11 years working with Todd Gray and held the same position at Equinox. Todd named Karen Nichols the executive chef at Equinox – a first in the restaurant’s history. Karen served as sous-chef at Gramercy Tavern in New York City.

Openings Update:

Cafe Deluxe, now operated by Clover Restaurant Group (CRG), will open in the RIO Center in Gaithersburg in mid-November, serving American brasserie fare. This will be its fourth location, with others in Tysons Corner, Bethesda, and Cleveland Park in D.C. CRG also plans to open its second Tortilla Coast at 15th and P Streets, NW in Logan Circle in mid-December. The new location will vary from its Tex-Mex sister restaurant on Capitol Hill and offer authentic Mexican fare … PAUL USA, the bakery that opened its first D.C. location at 801 Pennsylvania, NW has recently opened its second location on Wisconsin Avenue near M Street, NW… Wagamama, which has been expected to open in Penn Quarter for a while now, is now shooting for a spring 2012 opening in the space on 7th St, NW formerly occupied by Olsson’s Books … The second Founding Farmers farm-to-table-themed restaurant is slated to open in early November at 12505 Park Potomac Ave. in Potomac, Md. It will be overseen by corporate chef Joe Goetze, executive chef Rob Ross and pastry chef Courtney Goldian.

Quick Hits:

Mike Cordero, owner of Caribbean Breeze, Malibu Grill and Aqua Vida in Old Town plans to open Bronx Pizza in early December in Clarendon. Sushiko has a combination ramen and izakaya (Japanese pub) restaurant called Daikaya, slated to open next year at 705 Sixth St., NW in Penn Quarter … Pizza CS, a pizzeria slated to open in the first half of November in Rockville (where Three Brothers Italian Restaurant used to be), will feature Neapolitan pizza. Owners/operators are Ankur Rajpara and John Allen, formerly of local restaurant group, Latin Concepts. Bethesda Bagels is slated to open in the former Johnny Rockets space at 1718 Connecticut Ave. NW in north Dupont Circle by end of November. Jason Story and Carolina Gomez plan to open a charcuterie shop called Three Little Pigs in Petworth at 5111 Georgia Ave., NW by year’s end. Their plan calls for a sandwich station, retail space and charcuterie classes.

2100 Prime has opened in The Fairfax Hotel where The Jockey Club used to hold court. The new chef is Mark Timms, native of Sheffield, England, who has re-vamped the menu with lower prices and a greater focus on sustainable and local foods.

Chef/owner Patrick Bazin and his wife Julie plan to open a new authentic Mexican restaurant called Alegria, next door to their restaurant Bazin’s on Church, in Falls Church. It is slated to open in late December of 2011. The menu will showcase authentic Mexican food with a very strong connection to local growers and specialty regional suppliers. Outdoor dining on the patio will be offered as weather allows. The name Alegria (which means happiness) was chosen as a result of a Facebook page contest to name the new restaurant. The winner won dinner for eight on opening night for their winning submission.

Attention chefs:

MasterChef Season Three Open Calls are taking place. You will be given a few minutes to plate your dish at the given casting location, but there will not be a kitchen to cook or warm it up so come prepared. Visit The event takes place Nov. 12 at Trinity Washington University from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Latest Dish

October 5, 2011

Jamie Stachowski and his son, Josef, are taking over Griffin Market in Georgetown to open what Jamie calls “a rustic Hansel & Gretel house of beef,” featuring salamis and sausages as well as sandwiches (hand-cut pastrami – I’m there), beef, pork, and more exotic items like duck pate, fois gras, confit; prepared items like turkey for Thanksgiving, short ribs and meatballs. They plan to be up and running by November.

The Capital Hilton at 16th and K Streets, NW, will open its restaurant,North Gate Grill, in November. It will open serving breakfast and lunch, before dinner service is added to the dining program. The name, North Gate Grill, refers to its location down the street from the north gate of the White House. The chef is Daniel Murray, formerly of Renaissance Cleveland. But before that, he worked here in D.C. at Blackie’s.

Ray’s the Steaks and Ray’s Hell Burger owner Michael Landrum has opened the latest restaurant in his Ray’s empire: Ray’s to the Third, selling steak frites 13 different ways. It’s only open for dinner, with plans for lunch service in the future, located at 1650 Wilson Blvd in the Rosslyn/Courthouse area of Arlington.

Richard Pawlowski, owner/operator of numerous Cosi and Qdoba Mexican Grill locations in the metro area, is opening America’s first outpost of London-based YO!Sushi in D.C. inside Union Station in 2012. The U.K. eatery is known for its conveyor-belt style of sushi service, also known as a Japanese “kaiten” sushi bar, as the sushi rolls, sashimi and Asian salads and dishes are color-coded as the belt moves past. Pawlowski has teamed up with his good friend, Darren Wightman, who will serve as operating partner for YO!Sushi. Wightman was formerly the executive chef for YO!Sushi in the U.K. He also worked for London-based Ping Pong Dim Sum as executive chef.

Quick Hits

BGR: The Burger Joint plans to open before year’s end in Gaithersburg’s Rio Center as well as in the Cascades in Sterling, Va. Also slated to open at Washingtonian Center: Nando’s Peri Peri and Café Deluxe. Al Forno, an Italian trattoria will open this fall at 3201 New Mexico Ave., NW, in the former Balducci’s space. The restaurant will feature a wood-burning oven for Neapolitan pizza, and outdoor dining, just like at its neighbor, Chef Geoff’s. New York-based Boqueria plans to open in Dupont Circle this fall, their first location outside of New York. They offer Barcelona-inspired tapas. Filter Coffeehouse plans to open its second location in Foggy Bottom near the World Bank at 19th and I Streets, NW. The plan is for it to be open before year’s end.

EatWell DC who brought us Logan Tavern, Grillfish, Commissary and The Heights, will open another Logan Circle eatery, The Pig at 1320 14th St., NW, featuring – what else? – pork. They will source foods from their own farm, EatWell Natural Farm in La Plata, Md., and use locally raised pigs. They will also offer craft cocktails, American beers and wines from eco-conscious producers as well as small batch bourbons. A second quarter 2012 opening is planned.

Relying mostly on the money he has made through his technology business, Steve Acup is opening Log Inn at Lucketts at Route 15 and Spinks Ferry Road. Although his plans call for a March 2012 opening, he has set up a mobile trailer with a commercial kitchen to give the neighbors a taste of what to expect at Log Inn. The restaurant will serve pizza, pasta, ribs, Italian beef sandwiches and cheesecakes. Acup is developing the recipes but hiring people to cook and execute the concept for the up to 125-seat restaurant.

Chef Drew Trautmann, formerly of Mendocino Grille & Wine Bar in Georgetown, and Jawad Saadaoui, of Redwood in Bethesda, plan to open District Kitchen this month in the space where Jandara used to be at 2606 Connecticut Ave., NW, in Woodley Park. The 75-seat space will offer American food, similar to Woodberry Kitchen (re: rustic) in Baltimore. Drew’s sous chef is Daniel Velasco, whom he worked with at Mendocino Grille.

Town Hall restaurant, 2218 Wisconsin Ave, NW in Glover Park will be moving a block north into the old Blue Ridge space at 2340 Wisconsin Ave., NW. Eli Hengst and Jared Rager, owners of both places, negotiated a deal that also allows Town Hall to assume Blue Ridge’s liquor license. Their former space now also comes with its own liquor license, a very attractive amenity these days. Town Hall plans to be open in their new space by Thanksgiving.

The Georgetown ANC approved a liquor license application for Malmaison, a restaurant slated to open at the corner of 34th and K Streets, NW. The owners also own and operate Cafe Bonaparte at Wisconsin Avenue and P Street, NW. The new dessert cafe’s name can translate into “naughty house” or “ill-fated domain” but is actually a reference to Napoleon’s Château de Malmaison.

Chef Update

Dennis Marron is the new executive chef at Poste Moderne Brasserie, adjacent to Kimpton’s Monaco Hotel near the Verizon Center. He comes from Kimpton’s Old Town property, the Grille at Morrison House and Jackson 20. Mark Timms has been named executive chef at 2100 Prime, the restaurant in The Fairfax Hotel that used to be the Jockey Club.

Openings Update

Passion Food Hospitality will open Burger, Tap & Shake before it opens District Commons at 2200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, at Washington Circle in Foggy Bottom, which is sprouting foodservice options each month. District Commons will feature 20 American beers on tap. It will also be one of the few places in the area open for breakfast. Both should be open before the fourth quarter of 2011… The folks who own Tryst in Adams Morgan plan to open a taqueria at Lamont & 11 Street, NW. The working name is Margot’s Chair. If the construction gods allow, a January 2012 opening is planned. … Enzo Fargione’s Elisir on 11th Street, NW, in Penn Quarter plans to be open in October 2011 … The Hamilton, brought to you by Clyde’s Restaurant group in the former Borders space near Old Ebbitt Grill, will have three bars upstairs and two bars downstairs, and plans to be open before year’s end. Roti Mediterranean Grill plans to open on F Street, NW, the end of this month, and at Union Station, in first quarter of 2012.

Linda Roth Conte is president of Linda Roth Associates, Inc. (LRA), specializing in making creative connections through media relations, marketing initiatives, community outreach and special events for the hospitality industry. Contact Linda at 703-417-2700 or or visit her web site at

The Latest Dish

August 10, 2011

The coffee shop revolution has hit a new front with the opening of the uber-cool (check out the gossip columns for who goes there in LA) The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, at the Washington Hilton. It will be their second East Coast store, the first being Miami. It is slated to open this fall in the Connecticut Avenue lobby, with easy access for commuters in the Dupont Circle corridor. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is a Los Angeles, California-based coffee chain, with over 750 locations in 22 countries, including Australia, Brunei, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, South Korea, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines, Qatar, Singapore, Sri Lanka United Arab Emirates and Vietnam.

It’s official: the guys who brought you Matchbox have signed a lease to open at 14th and T, NW. This will be the fourth Matchbox in the D.C. area, as they also own and operate a fifth matchbox in Palm Springs, Ca.

Chris George plans to open Memphis Barbeque in the former Mackey’s Pub space in Crystal City before summer ends. A significant facelift is in the works. George got his start with Houston’s, but has also worked at Occidental Grill and Mike’s American Grill. There will also be a large patio for dining when the weather permits.

Bistro Le Zinc has arrived just in time to take advantage of the recent release of Woody Allen’s movie, “Midnight in Paris.” The Macomb Street bistro is owned and operated by Brasserie Beck’s former manager John Warner and executive chef David Ashwell, who also cooked at Marcel’s. The name comes from the term “les zincs” referring to the pewter bar counter tops often found in French cafes. There is seating for 60 inside and 20 on the patio.

The head chef of Café Atlantico, Richard Brandenburg, has been hired by Edens & Avant, one of the big boys in real estate development, as its first director of culinary strategy. Café Atlantico closed in June to make room for America Eats Tavern, the edible collaboration between Jose Andres’ ThinkFoodGroup and the National Archives.

The retail space on the corner of the 4th and Massachusetts Ave. NW (NoMa) will be the home to a new “European Café with wine bar” to be called TEL’VEH.

Chef Bryan Voltaggio has two restaurants in the works, both slated for next year. The first will be in Frederick, Voltaggio’s hometown and the site of Volt. The working name for the 10,000-square-foot space is North Market Kitchen, and it’ll have a large dining room, a store, and exhibition kitchen with stations for pasta, raw seafood, cheese, baked goods, and rotisserie meats. Voltaggio was inspired by New York’s Eataly. Closer to D.C. will be a bistro/steakhouse hybrid in Chevy Chase Pavilion, also home to a Cheesecake Factory. Voltaggio’s 220-seat restaurant will have an open kitchen.

Speaking of Eataly, rumor is that Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali are scouting sites in D.C. to open an Eataly, which is comprised of a food hall that sells gourmet foods and several restaurants. They will need a big space.

Developer Forest City Washington announced Monday the signing of seven new restaurants anchored by a Harris Teeter grocery store at its new project called The Yards near Nationals Park. The restaurants, all slated to open in 2012, will include Potbelly, Buzz Bakery, Austin Grill Express, Kruba Thai and Sushi, BRB-Be Right Burger, Huey’s 24/7 Diner and a brew pub from Neighborhood Restaurant Group, the group behind Birch & Barley and ChurchKey.

Chef Update: ThinkFoodGroup has promoted Joe Raffa, the head chef at Oyamel, to culinary operations director for the restaurant company, overseeing the culinary operations of 11 concepts in three U.S. markets. He will be replaced at Oyamel by industry veteran John Paul Damato, formerly the head chef of Jaleo in Bethesda. Chef Richard Beckel is the culinary force behind Thompson Hospitality’s BRB: Be Right Burger, awhile he is head chef at American Tap Room. A Culinary Institute of America in NY graduate, Chef Beckel has worked at Hooked Seafood Restaurant in Sterling, Va. as well as The Caucus Room in Penn Quarter, D.C.

Managers Update: Gil Fornaris has been hired as General Manager of Ping Pong Dim Sum at the new Dupont Circle location – slated to open in September, but will take on the roll of Operations Manager for both that and the Penn Quarter location. Morton’s, The Steakhouse in Georgetown has a new Sales and Marketing Manager, Carla McCully, who hails from Hilton Dulles.

Openings Update: Shaw’s Tavern slated to open by August on Florida Ave., NW. It appears the restaurants on the Georgetown waterfront at Washington Harbour will not be open until spring 2012. Pinkberry, the tart frozen yogurt shop, plans to open in Georgetown in October. RJ Cooper’s Rogue 24 opened on July 27, which is why he could not do the Chefs Go Fresh motorcycle ride on July 26 (bummer).

Bobby Flay is planning to open another Bobby’s Burger Palace at 2121 K Street, NW on Aug. 16 with his famed crunch burgers and boozy milk shakes.

Seasonal Menu Debuts at B. Smith’s

July 26, 2011

Union Station, the magnificent early 20th century train station that houses B. Smith’s Restaurant in Washington, DC, is one of the most majestic buildings in the city. Designed by distinguished American architect Daniel Burnham, it has been a national landmark since its completion in 1908. The splendid Beaux Arts statuary was created by no less a sculptor than Louis St. Gaudens, whose 50-plus figures in the station were considered his finest work. Adding to its stony provenance is its proximity to the US Senate and the charming Le Notre-inspired gardens.

Sixteen years ago the stunning Barbara Smith, Vogue supermodel and African-American style setter, opened her very popular restaurant along the south side of the building. Housed in what was once known as the Presidential Suite, it is the same site where US Presidents and dignitaries once convened before their inaugurations. With its spectacular décor, lavish period chandeliers and Presidential seals still intact, it is in these turn-of-the-century rooms where B. Smith, as she is known, serves her delightful mix of Cajun Creole and Southern cuisine.

Recently I visited the restaurant to try out her new fall menu. I found her signature style still in place with smartly suited and wine-savvy servers, low country cuisine and a genteel atmosphere. In the background a baby grand played softly as we sampled fried chicken livers with onion confit and pineapple chutney, crawfish and crab dip and pan-seared grouper over hoppin’ John rice with a citrus beurre blanc. The osso bucco with creamy asparagus risotto didn’t speak to the Southern style but was tender and lusciously sauced all the same.

Several well-chosen and gently priced wines accompanied our dinner. We began with a 2008 Caymus Conundrum…a blend (I know, I know, but just get over it. I did!) of California whites, but soft and lovely with honeysuckle overtones, and followed up with a 2007 Sacred Hill Marlborough Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, in which I divined chocolate, plum and cinnamon tones.

B. Smith’s still keeps their ever-popular Bourbon Street bread pudding on the menu, but it was the beignets that really charmed. Oh, to have a half a dozen of these warm, sweet treats for breakfast with a cup of French Market chicory coffee!

For reservations visit [gallery ids="102495,120217,120223" nav="thumbs"]

Strawberries and Asparagus: A Delicious Opportunity for Health

The Farmers Markets are almost in full swing. The Rose Park Market began on Wednesday, May 9 (every Wednesday, 3 – 7 p.m. through November), with the two most popular items in season: asparagus and strawberries. And of course, The Dupont Circle Fresh Farm Market is now open on Sundays, 8:30a.m. – 1p.m. This is the time of year to revel in the peak ripeness, flavor and nutrition of these springtime delicacies.

The recipe for curried chicken salad with strawberries comes from my mother and makes a very nice lunch offering. Like any curry dish, its perfect companions are a spicy or sweet chutney (try CHOP Market’s Nature Isle Chutney) and a cool yogurt. You could also top it on a baguette or stuff it into a tomato or avocado half. Serve with pickles, carrot and celery sticks or radishes. You can use any seasonal fruits such as peaches, grapes, oranges, or anything ripe and in season. Have fun with it. The beauty of spring is the wide array of options, and it’s hard to go wrong.

Strawberries are actually members of the Rose family, and there are over 600 different varieties. Choose freshly picked, ripe berries, as they will be the tastiest and will have the most nutrients. “Look for berries fully formed, bright red, without bruising or soft spots and with fresh-looking green caps,” says janie Hibler in her book, The Berry Bible. She continues with a word of caution: “Beware of buying out-of-season strawberries, as sometimes they are picked when they are only 40% ripe. These berries may turn red, but they will never develop sweetness and can be hard as an apple.”

Strawberries are considered a “superfood.” They have one of the highest antioxidant and nutrient contents of all foods, they are also low in calories—you can eat them in unlimited quantities. In fact, for your health, the more the better!

“A serving of eight strawberries contains more vitamin C than an orange,” says David Grotto in 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life. “Strawberries are also rich in folate, potassium, and fiber. They’re especially high in cancer- and heart-disease-fighting phytonutrients (beneficial plant compounds) called flavonoids, anthocyanins, ellagic acid, quercetin, catechin, and kaempferol.”

Asparagus, meanwhile, is packed with nutrients. Low in calories, it’s an excellent source of folic acid and Vitamin C, Thiamin, and Vitamin B6. Asparagus, like other fruits and vegetables, is sodium-free, and contains no fat or cholesterol. It is an important source of potassium and many nutrients, important for boosting your immune system and preventing heart disease, lowering blood pressure and even preventing cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, Asparagus is the highest tested food containing Glutathione, one of the body’s most potent cancer fighters. Additionally, Asparagus is high in Rutin, which is valuable in strengthening the blood vessels.?This recipe for chilled asparagus spears in a creamy vinaigrette is a bright, balanced dish that I think brings out the best in asparagus.

Kjerstin’s Curried Chicken Salad with Strawberries and Roasted Almonds

Serves 4

2 cups chicken breast meat, cooked, chopped (about 2 half breasts)
1 pint low sodium, nonfat chicken stock
1/3 cup small mild onion, chopped
1-1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 cup seedless grapes, halved (or other available fruit)
¾ pound strawberries, hulled and quartered
3 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp curry powder, or to taste
1 oz almonds or walnuts, toasted and chopped
1/4 cup low fat ranch-style or cucumber dressing

Poach the chicken breasts in stock until cooked. Let cool, then chop in bite-size pieces. Add the rest of the ingredients and chill. Serve chilled. Per serving: 230 calories, 8 grams fat, 1 grams sat fat, 19 g carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 20 grams protein

Chilled Asparagus in a Creamy Tarragon, Shallot, and Roasted Walnut Vinaigrette

Serves 6 to 8

2 lb asparagus, cleaned, tough ends removed, cut in 1.5 inch pieces
1 Tbsp walnut or canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted walnuts, chopped
1 small (4 oz) red bell pepper, finely chopped (roasting optional)
1 bunch (1/4 cup) green onions, finely chopped

2 Tbsp tarragon vinegar
4 Tbsp walnut oil
2 Tbsp low fat Greek yogurt
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 Tbsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh parsely, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

If you are using raw walnuts, toast the walnuts: place in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes until light golden brown. Let cool, then chop.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare the vinaigrette by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl large enough to fit the asparagus, red pepper and green onions. Place the bowl with the vinaigrette in the refrigerator so that it is cool when the asparagus comes out of the oven.
If you wish, peel the stalks of the asparagus for a more tender vegetable. Slice the asparagus stalks diagonally into bite-sized or approximately 1.5 inch pieces. In a large bowl or plastic bag, toss the pieces in the walnut or canola oil and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper, until the asparagus is coated lightly with oil. Place on a baking sheet in a single layer and cook for 5 minutes in the middle of the oven. Pour the hot asparagus into the cool vinaigrette to help discontinue the cooking of the asparagus, so that it remains al dente. Do not overcook! Add the red bell pepper, green onions, and nuts. Toss and serve immediately while still warm, or serve chilled. About 1,000 calories for the entire dish.

Across the Cutting Board with Ris

June 28, 2011

Soup tends to be associated with nourishing the soul, warm and hearty. In the dead of winter, a bowl of potato soup wards off a chill and during the weakest day of an illness, nothing is more comforting than a bowl of homemade chicken soup. While all this might be good for our heat-flattened soul, we are expecting a high of 88 degrees, and it’s just too hot. The heat continues to pummel the cobblestone streets of Georgetown in the familiar haze of humidity DC is famous for. Hungry and hot, locals and tourists alike drag themselves along sweltering sidewalks in search of an oasis, craving something cold, light, and refreshing.

“French Onion is everyone’s favorite, but I have to take if off the menu once the thermostat reads 70 degrees” says Ris Lacoste, at her namesake restaurant, RIS, on the corner of 23rd and L.

Luckily for her many soup fans however, Ris has a relatively simple solution to compliment her daring and creative menu: cold soups, the summer’s ready cousin to the wintery favorite.

Ris attributes her delicious soup creations to the not-so-secret concept of incorporating fresh local ingredients. We are fortunately returning to a locally grown society, appreciating the need for real food. Summer bears the fruits of local labor. By nature, summer’s bounty provides us with the perfect ingredients for cold soups – beets, tomatoes, cucumbers and potatoes.

“I was just at the Farmer’s Market and the bounty is here: fresh things from Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. So now I can plan my summer menu,” Ris says.

Ris and her staff have been anticipating the bounty of summer since early spring. They’ve worked diligently to come up with soup ideas and turn them into reality. Ris is using simple logic to invent bold new combinations.

“Crops that are grown at the same time and in the same place should be paired with each other.” Ris says.

Pair foods that grow together; “If they grow together, they go together.”

Though I, like many people, claim to have a passion for food, Ris possesses a palpable intuition about her craft. She describes her love for food, her restaurant, and even the content of this column as being something more than just a simple enthusiasm about cuisine.

To create her summer soup calendar, Ris engendered variations on classic favorites and modern cold soups and experimentally perfected the flavor combinations. Ris mixed up five savory soups embodying everything from veggies to nuts to fruit to liqueur. She then let Jessica Buchanan, who consults Ris on recipes, work through the restaurant sized recipes to make smaller printable versions, so others can try them at home.

There is no wrong way to fashion a cold soup, chunky or smooth, nippy from the start or cooked and chilled. Try experimenting until something tastes precisely right. Skin the vegetables, or leave the skins on. Try adding a splash of your favorite dressings. Think of your favorite salad ingredients and imagine the flavors and textures in a liquid base.

Some tips from the chef: Freeze a portion of your soup into ice cubes and add them to the soup just before serving. Your soup will stay icy cold without being watered down. Chill your bowls. Make your cold soup enough time in advance that it will be very cold. A day in advance is great. They often taste better after the ingredients have had time to mingle together.

Garnish is the final step. To finish off your summery soup, embellish with crunch and texture, balancing acts to what is already in the soup.

“Love garnishing, just go crazy,” she says.

Cold Beet Coup
Yield: 6 cups

3 C. Red Beets (6 small red beets), roasted & coarsely chopped
½ Onion, sliced
3-4 Cloves Garlic, roasted
1 Small Fennel Bulb, coarsely chopped
(Save a few fennel fronds for garnish)
¼ C. Fresh Parsley
2 T. Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
½ tsp. Ground Cumin
2 C. Vegetable Stock or Water
½ C. Orange juice (1 orange)
1 T. Pernod (or anise flavored liquor)
1 T. + 1 tsp. Balsamic Vinegar
6-8 Grinds Fresh Group Black pepper
1 tsp. Salt

¼ C. Pernod
1 T. Honey
½ C. Sour Cream
Fennel Fronds

Note: To roast beets & garlic, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim tops & bottoms of beets & cut the top off a bulb of garlic (so some flesh of the garlic is exposed). Season with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on a sheet pan, cover loosely with foil and roast for 30 minutes. Let cool before peeling skin and roughly chop. Squeeze roasted garlic out of skins into a bowl. Set aside until ready to use.

In a Dutch oven, heat two tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté onion, fennel, roasted garlic, salt and pepper until slightly soft or translucent, about five to eight minutes. Add parsley, roasted beets, cumin and sauté for another three minutes. Add vegetable stock and simmer soup for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and add orange juice, Pernod and vinegar. Let cool slightly. Puree soup until smooth, adding more vegetable stock if needed to thin out. Season with ground black pepper and salt. Chill immediately overnight.

Meanwhile, bring Pernod and honey to a simmer and reduce until it’s a light syrup, approximately 10 minutes. Cool syrup. Combine with sour cream, thinning out with a little water or milk until able to drizzle.

Serve cold beet soup with a drizzle of Pernod Cream and fennel fronds.

You can also garnish with a small crumble of goat cheese or feta, or just plain sour cream.

Cucumber & Yogurt Soup
Yields: 6 Cups

4 English/seedless cucumbers (approximately six cups), peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
1 cup plain yogurt
2 scallions, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh dill
1 tablespoon salt
½ tablespoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

4 pieces of white bread

Puree all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Taste for salt, if needed. Chill immediately for four hours or overnight.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the crust off the bread and then piece into ¼ inch squares. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Toast in the oven for eight to 10 minutes. Slice the cucumber and radish very thin or use a mandolin, and set aside.

For serving, garnish soup with a slice of cucumber, radish and a few croutons for crunch.

You can also substitute the dill for fresh cilantro and garnish with a Greek raita and toasted pita chips. Or try it with mint or parsley for a different twist on flavor.

The Latest Dish

June 13, 2011

Washington Harbor restaurants are slowly recovering. Sequoia, which was situated above the other restaurants and above flood level, is open. Tony & Joe’s and Nick’s Riverside Grill opened their patios only, grilling outdoors when the weather allows. Cabanas and Farmers & Fishers are still closed. Rumor has it that Michel Richard was planning to open a small restaurant at Washington Harbor before the flood happened. By spring 2012, there may be new entertainment aspects of Washington Harbor to appeal to those who love to dine and enjoy the river view.

Award-winning chef Jose Andres has developed another partnership, this time on the federal level. He is making a bold new move – changing Café Atlantico in Penn Quarter into American Eats Tavern from June 10 through Jan. 3, 2012 to complement the nearby U.S. National Archives upcoming exhibit “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? The Government’s Effect on the American Diet.” The first floor will offer more casual fare like hot dogs and cheesesteak (a signature item) and the second floor will be more formal, offering U.S. regional favorites. But one thing will not change. Jose plans to keep the six-seat mini bar operating during this time.

Chef & GM Update: Christopher Jakubiec was promoted to executive chef of Plume Restaurant at the Jefferson Hotel in downtown DC. He has been with the hotel since 2009, and previously worked at Quarter Kitchen in San Diego’s The Ivy Hotel and New York’s Ono restaurant. James Turner is the chef at Blue 44 on upper Connecticut Ave., NW, owned by Chris Nardelli, formerly of Café Ole in NW DC. Turner was formerly sous chef at Persimmon in Bethesda. Eddie Ishaq was named exec chef at Wildfire restaurant in Tysons Corner, owned by Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You . He has worked at other Wildfire restaurants in Illinois. Dave Dilullo is the new general manager at Morton’s, The Steakhouse in Georgetown. He was previously with Ruth’s Chris.

Jacques Haeringer followed his dream and has finally opened Jacques’ Brasserie below the more formal and legendary L’Auberge Chez Francois in Great Falls. This more casual 30-seat dining room and lounge is a bit more affordable for friends and neighbors who can stop by more often.

Shenandoah American Grill, a southern-influenced bar and restaurant, will open in Restaurant Park in Ashburn, VA, where Otani, a Japanese steakhouse, used to be. It will offer American cuisine with a southern influence, and some recipes come from the kitchens of the partners and their grandmothers. This includes Krispy Kreme bread pudding – good, home-style southern cooking. Co-owners Sean Lakos and Lance Smith worked for Carrabba’s Italian Grill and P.F. Chang’s. The rather large restaurant will include a cigar bar (can you still do that?) complemented by a selection of 30+ scotches. It seats up to 350, including its patio space.

Warren Thompson of Thompson Hospitality (TH) is in expediting mode. In addition to his new gourmet burger concept, BRB Burger, he plans to roll out a BRB Burger food truck. He plans to open an American Tap Room in Clarendon this July as the brand’s new flagship store in the space on Wilson Blvd, where Sette Bello used to be. He expanded the name of Austin Grill (now there are six) to Austin Grill & Tequila Bar, introducing a beverage-oriented menu and refined tequila selection. And, this fall, the first free-standing Austin Grill Express fast-casual restaurant will open in College Park.

James Sullivan Sr., who started Clover Investment Group with sons James Jr. and Brian, has gotten deeper into the business by buying Café Deluxe and Tortilla Coast. The group bought Cafe Deluxe’s three existing locations, and the Tex-Mex Tortilla Coast on Capitol Hill, from founders Bo Marcus and John Breen. Clover will open a Tortilla Coast this fall on P St. NW, where McCormick Paints used to be. They plan to open a Cafe Deluxe in Gaithersburg’s Rio at Washington Center where Hamburger Hamlet used to be. They are also the creators of Tynan Coffee & Tea, with locations in Columbia Heights, Friendship Heights and Constitution Square. They expect to open additional locations in D.C. and Arlington.

Quick Hits
Mid-Town Café in Georgetown changed its name to Book Hill Café. Same owner; new chef. William Jeffrey’s Tavern is planning to open later this year at Siena Park on Columbia Pike in Arlington. It’s operated by Wilson Witney, Adam Lubar and Chris Lefbom of Rhodeside Tavern, Ragtime and Dogwood Tavern. Willy Koutroumpis, owner of Wild Willy’s Rock House & Sports Saloon in Annapolis, will open Kava in Annapolis.

Former Washington Bullet (from its only championship season) Kevin Grevey plans to open a FroZen Yo at 1900 M St., NW with FroZenYo founder and friend. Kevin also owns Grevey’s Restaurant & Sports Bar in Falls Church. TruOrleans, named for Louisiana native Tru Redding, is slated to open at 400 H St. NE in Atlas District. The executive chef is Andre Miller, previously at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. The Crystal City Marriott’s $6 million in renovations includes a new restaurant named BELL20 for its Bell and 20th streets location. It is an American tavern with more than 30 beers. It replaces CC Bistro.

Bobby Flay signed to open Bobby’s Burger Palace in September at The Varsity, a luxury student housing complex near the University of Maryland, College Park. The Varsity will also house a ChiDogO and an Austin Grill Express in the care of Papadopoulos Properties.

Jesse Yan and business partner Vanessa Lim bought a building on 8th St., SE on burgeoning Barrack’s Row, planning to open a Mediterranean restaurant on the first floor and Spices on the second floor. Jesse owns Spices and Nooshi.

John Kent Cooke has chosen fine wine over football. The former Redskins’ owner’s son, along with Sean Martin, has opened The Tasting Room at National Harbor, their fourth in the region. The premium red wines are from Boxwood Estate, which he also owns. John got into wine while living in California in the early ‘70s when his father, Jack Kent Cooke, owned the LA Lakers and Kings. When John bought the Boxwood Farm in 2001, he entered the wine business. Boxwood has a customized GPS system to monitor viticultural practices and a computer that can control the temperature of fermentation tanks. The winery produces only 3,000 cases a year and sells its three varieties at The Tasting Rooms in Chevy Chase, Reston, Middleburg, and National Harbor. All wine bars feature the Enoround, which can do a perfect one, three or five ounce pour for tastings, using a card insertion system.

Restaurateurs are gearing up for their annual Oscars of the DC restaurant scene: the RAMMY Awards. Some of the awards are voted on by the public, such as Power Spot, Hottest Bar Scene, Neighborhood Gathering Place, and a city-wide balloting campaign for Favorite Restaurant. Those Favorite Restaurant finalists are: matchbox (Penn Quarter), Ted’s Bulletin (Barracks Row DC), Chef Geoff’s (Tysons Corner), Carmine’s (Penn Quarter), and Lima Restaurant (Downtown). Although I am not proficient at “handicapping” this race, since matchbox and Ted’s Bulletin are owned by the same folks, they appear to be frontrunners. Of the restaurants up for Best New Restaurant, Ris is has been open the longest – a year and a half – as it missed the deadline last year by a week, so Ris has had more time to build loyal guests. Todd Gray has been serving fine food in DC longer than any of the Chef of the Year nominees, so Advantage: Todd. Winners will be announced at the gala on June 26 at the Marriott Wardman Park. The awards gala is produced by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington. The annual black tie gala has a Carnevale theme, so masks are optional. I’ve already got mine.

The Latest Dish

May 17, 2011

From Steve Ells and the folks that brought you the amazingly successful QSR idol, Chipotle Mexican Grill, comes a new concept in the same QSR style. It’s called Shophouse Southeast Asian Kitchen (a mouthful in more ways than one) and will open its first store—a test market store—in Dupont Circle on Connecticut Ave., NW near the north Metro stop. The Asian-themed concept is slated to open this summer, but the Ells’ tweaking process is known to take time. No plans to expand beyond the first store yet.

New York City’s Luke’s Lobster, the lobster shack-themed restaurant concept founded by Georgetown grad Luke Holden, is scouting Penn Quarter for its first store in DC. Holden gets his seafood bearings from his father Jeffrey, who owns Portland Shellfish and is one of the owners of Luke’s. Other owners include Luke’s brother, Bryan, who lives here in Washington, and Luke’s friends Scott Bullard and Ben Conniff. A summer opening is planned.

Mid-Town Café opened on Wisconsin Avenue near Q St., next door to ILO Salon, and changed its name to Book Hill Café (for obvious reasons). The chef operator is Matthew Mohler, who has worked at Adour at the St Regis Hotel and J&G Steakhouse at the W Hotel. So American fare will highlight the menu. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are on the menu, as is an outdoor patio.

Quick Hits: It appears that Orlando-based Seasons 52 loves this area enough to sign a deal to open a second location, this one in Tysons Corner Center. Their first in the region opens in across from White Flint Mall in Bethesda. Yet another summer opening is planned. Salt & Pepper, by Chefs Nathan & Lindsey Auchter, joined by Robert Golfman and Suechen Chen (formerly of Bambu) will open where Kemble Park Tavern used to be in DC’s Palisades.

Another burger place opening this summer: Korean-based concept Kraze Burger is slated to open on Bethesda’s Elm Street. Expansion is expected to continue in North Bethesda, and Dulles and Georgetown will follow. They will also offer tofu and veggie burgers as well as salads.

Speaking of BGR, the chain plans to open a Clarendon restaurant at the corner of N. Highland Street and Wilson Boulevard. That would be the sixth BGR in the area. They have another Arlington location on Lee Highway in Clarendon).

Ivan Iricanin’s new taqueria, El Centro D.F., serves authentic Mexican food near his partners’ other restaurant, Masa 14. His partners are Kaz Okochi and Richard Sandoval. El Centro D.F. will occupy three floors in the 14th Street, NW building. Dinner and lounge on the lower level with the traditional taqueria on the first floor. Rooftop bar upstairs. Can’t wait for those warm summer evenings.

Richmond-based Café Caturra, a coffee house and wine bar, also plans to open in Arlington on S Glebe Road this summer—coffee during the day, wine in the evening. An outdoor patio is also part of the plan for the summer opening. Café Caturra was founded by musician turned restaurateur Jeff Grant.

Chef Update: Former Westend Bistro sous-chef Adam Barnett will be head chef at Eventide. He previously worked at another restaurant in the group, Liberty Tavern, as well as the Inn at Little Washington.

Openings Update: Ping Pong Dim Sum’s Dupont Circle location plans to open in early August, for the time being. Pinkberry, which just opened on Connecticut Avenue near M Street, plans to open (in no particular order) in Leesburg, Clarendon, National Harbor and Georgetown.

On The Calendar: Zoofari at the National Zoo – Thursday, May 19; Wine Enthusiast’s Toast of the Town at National Building Museum (still a few slots open) – Friday, May 20; RAMMY Awards at Marriot Wardman Park (Carnevale theme) – Sunday, June 26.

Linda Roth Conte is president of Linda Roth Associates, Inc (LRA) specializing in making creative connections through media relations, marketing initiatives, community outreach and special events for the hospitality industry. Contact Linda at 703-417-2700 or or visit her web site at

The Latest Dish

January 12, 2011

Theater was always a part of Jose Andres’ aura. Now he has a presence at the newly renovated Arena Stage on DC’s southwest waterfront. Next Stage by José Andrés offers eclectic soups, salads, sandwiches and entrees, some even themed to currently running shows. The café is located on a balcony facing Arena Stage’s glass-fronted entrance.

More lobster: Michael Landrum, owner/operator of RAY’S THE STEAKS and assorted other Ray’s-themed restaurants, will open The Lobster Pot, a seafood restaurant at 1650 Wilson Blvd. in Rosslyn.

From the folks who brought you Grapeseed in Bethesda, comes a new lobster concept called FREDDIE’S LOBSTER. Lobster is not as expensive as it used to be, which may account for the new lobster outlets, from trucks to carryout. This is one white meat you cannot say tastes like chicken.

The BRICKSKELLER is planning a facelift and has changed its name to BIER BARON. Don’t worry, they will still serve more beers (1200) than any other place in town, as it always has. New owners Megan Merrifield and her husband are operators. They also own Windsor Inn, Embassy Inn and District Hotel. The reopening is planned for the early part of the new year.

THE ROOKERY, owned by Bo Blair, has re-opened as BAYOU, a New Orleans-style restaurant at 2519 Pennsylvania Ave., NW with Chef Rusty Holman at the helm. Look for New Orleans favorites — Po Boys, gumbo, shrimp and grits and live jazz during dinner.

Chef and Executive Update – MATCHBOX Chinatown has named Cliff Wharton as executive chef. Wharton once a striving rock star, joins matchbox from Ten Penh, where he became a culinary star.

Tom Meyer has been named president of CLYDE’S RESTAURANT GROUP. Tom had been executive vice president for CRG since 2002.

Natalie Vella has been named general manager of RIS, a promotion from her position as assistant GM.

Ramón Narváez is returning to Robert Wiedmaier’s restaurant empire (Brasserie Beck, Brabo, Mussel Bar by RW, Marcel’s) as wine and beverage director. Starting at Marcel’s in 2002, he left in 2008 to become the sommelier at Adour located at the St. Regis Hotel.

STELLA RESTAURANT is coming to the Traville Shopping Center in North Potomac where The Vyne Restaurant was, this month. Owners and brothers George and Stratton Liapis have owned and operated The Lunch Box Carry-Out Shoppes in downtown D.C. and Bullfeather’s of Capital Hill. Ray Niederhausen, a graduate of Stratford University, will be the executive chef. Stella will offer steakhouse steaks, chops, organic chicken, as well as full bar service, including a diverse wine list featuring wines from California, Italy, France, Argentina and Greece.

TERASOL, a French bistro with an artistic mix of food and artwork, has newly reopened at 5010 Connecticut Ave, NW after a nearly two-year hiatus. Owners Sabrina Ousmaal and Alan Moin offer a 400-square-foot art gallery with art, jewelry and pottery for sale, and a 1350-square-foot restaurant serving French cuisine.

SALT & PEPPER, a new breakfast spot, is slated to open in the Palisades neighborhood on the second floor of 5101 MacArthur Blvd, NW, above Bambu. Owners Sue Chen and Robert Golfman call it a modern twist on diner classics. They also plan to offer alcoholic beverages in addition to the diner menu.

Yes, it’s true. KEMBLE PARK TAVERN has closed.

Linda Roth Conte is president of Linda Roth Associates, Inc (LRA) specializing in making creative connections through media relations, marketing initiatives, community outreach and special events for the hospitality industry. Contact Linda at 703-417-2700 or or visit her web site at