Walter Nicholls on Thai Tuna Salad

Thanks to the Royal Thai Embassy, I’ve reawakened a lost appreciation for canned tuna — one of Thailand’s principal exports. But tuna didn’t take me to Thailand. A few months back, as a food journalist and guest of the government, I traveled to Bangkok and points south and saw for myself what a terrific job the Thais have done in the eco-friendly conservation of natural resources and the revitalization of mangrove forests that in years past had been devastated by fish farming. I found the tuna salad of my dreams, and far more, at Bangkok’s legendary Mandarin Oriental hotel. As it turns out, every day at 6 p.m. staff members of the Mandarin deliver a small cocktail amenity to the hotel’s orchid-filled guest rooms, placing the nibble beside the daily tropical fruit display. One evening, this dressing drink hors d’oeuvre may be a pretty coddled egg or, perhaps, a rich duck liver pate. Another day, think sushi. To ensure that the rotating roster of 15 cocktail amenities is up to MO’s exacting standards, every four months Executive Chef Norbert Kostner gathers together his staff for a testing and tasting workshop. And that’s where hotel Chef Enrico Froehnel introduced the group to his unexpected Thai tuna salad. One afternoon at poolside, Chef Kostner explained that “We needed something different and here we have a perfect fusion of American and Thai with refreshing flavors that explode in the mouth and then bring harmony.” Granted, there is lots of chopping involved. But Froehnel’s exceptional seafood spread, loaded with taste sensations of kaffir lime and lemon grass, is worth the effort. To start: grab a can of good tuna. Thai Tuna Salad Makes 1 1/2 cups 2 teaspoons finely chopped lemongrass (use only inner core) 2 teaspoons grated galangal 1 teaspoon finely chopped kaffir lime leaves 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped white onion 2 1/2 tablespoons diced sweet peppers (thin-skinned varieties are best) 1 teaspoon finely chopped cilantro 2 teaspoons finely chopped spring onions (green part only) 5 tablespoons mayonnaise 1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice A few drops hot sauce, such as Tabasco A few drops Worcestershire sauce 1 pinch freshly ground pepper 1 pinch salt 1 teaspoon maple syrup 1 six-ounce can tuna, drained and finely shredded Combine all ingredients, except the shredded tuna, in a large kitchen bowl and mix until well blended. Add the shredded tuna and mix again. For best flavor, cover and refrigerate for two hours. Serve with melba toasts, rice crackers, or sliced baguette. (Kaffir lime leaves and galangal — a ginger relative — are available at Asian markets.)

A Spot of Irish Coffee

Mark Twain once said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” With its damp air and piercing Pacific wind, the City by the Bay can be nippy year-round. I recall a late-summer visit where the wind was whipping at my tail as I strolled along Fisherman’s Wharf after dinner. Fortunately, a perfect remedy lurked nearby. The Buena Vista Cafe, which is known worldwide for their steaming cups of Irish coffee, was only few blocks up one of the city’s famous hills. As I trudged up the steep incline, the Buena Vista’s red neon sign served as a beacon signaling relief from the cold. The long and narrow bar draws devoted locals as well as out-of-towners relaxing after a day of sightseeing. Watching the staff at the Buena Vista make the Irish coffees is a spectacle in itself. When the small cafe gets crowded, the bartenders line glass mugs up and down the tapered bar assembly-line style. Methodically, the staff pours blazing hot coffee into the waiting mugs, followed by sugar cubes and jiggers of Irish whiskey. Finally the toddies are topped with generous dollops of whipped cream before being served to eager customers waiting to warm their souls with steaming goodness. Some mistakenly believe that the Buena Vista invented the Irish coffee. According to the Museum of the American Cocktail, Irish coffee was invented in 1942 by Joseph Sheridean, the head chef at Foynes Airbase in Limerick (now Shannon Airport), as a way to provide a warming beverage to cold and weary travelers. According to the bar’s Web site (, on the night of November 10, 1952 Jack Koeppler, then-owner of the Buena Vista, challenged international travel writer Stanton Delaplane to help re-create the highly touted Irish coffee served at Shannon Airport. Intrigued, Stan accepted Jack’s invitation, and the pair began to experiment. Throughout the night they stirred and sipped judiciously and eventually acknowledged two recurring problems. The taste was "not quite right," and the cream would not float. Jack pursued the elusive elixir with religious fervor, even making a pilgrimage overseas to Ireland. Upon Jack’s return, the experimentation continued. Finally, the perfect-tasting Irish whiskey was selected. Then the problem of the bottom-bent cream was taken to San Francisco’s mayor, a prominent dairy owner. It was discovered that when the cream was aged for 48 hours and frothed to a precise consistency, it would float on the surface. Soon the fame of the Buena Vista’s Irish coffee spread. According to a Frommer’s guidebook, the bar has poured more of these addictive pick-me-up drinks than any other bar in the world, and ordering one has become a San Francisco must-do. Irish Coffee The Buena Vista’s Web site offers step-by-step instructions on how they make their Irish coffee. 1. Fill glass with very hot water to pre-heat, then empty. 2. Pour hot coffee into hot glass until it is about three-quarters full. Drop in two cocktail sugar cubes. 3. Stir until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved. 4. Add full jigger of Irish whiskey for proper taste and body. 5. Top with a collar of lightly whipped whipping cream by pouring gently over a spoon. A selection of Irish whiskeys may be purchased at Dixie Liquor, located at 3429 M Street in Georgetown.

Rumor Has It: Free Wine

So rumor has it among “the trade” (that’s wine industry speak for people who work in the industry) that there is a group of local wine lovers who taste wine every Saturday — for free. Want to get in on the action? There are three great inexpensive ways to taste wine in the District: wine stores, local grocery store chains and wine bars/restaurants. The following is a list of recommended places that offer free or inexpensive tastings locally. Grocery Stores: Whole Foods in Georgetown on 2323 Wisconsin Ave. has periodic in-store wine tastings for free called “Wine on Wednesdays” from 5 to 7 p.m. The store often offers wine samples, along with a bite of their favorite food pairing. On March 25 from 7 to 8 p.m. there will be a “Wine Basics” class held in the 1440 P St. Whole Foods store for $15. To register contact $15 will be collected at the door. Harris Teeter and Trader Joe’s have local stores with a surprisingly wide selection of wines from around the world, given their limited wine department space. Wine importers and distributors do free in-store tasting periodically at both chains. Call the store you are interested in visiting to check the date of the next scheduled wine tasting. There is also a rumor that the new “Social Safeway” being built on Georgetown’s Wisconsin Avenue has planned a large wine department. [Editor’s note: It’s true. Current renovation plans include a expansive wine section, staffed by two experts.] Wine Shops: Pearson’s Liquor and Wine, 2436 Wisconsin Ave. This Washington institution has since 1933 exuded the impression of a liquor store that sells wine. They offer daily tastings and have a knowledgeable, albeit intimidating wine staff. Beginners may not appreciate the curt reception and the “I don’t have a lot of time to spend with you” wine education, but knowledgeable wine enthusiasts will do fine here. Come for the free tastings and a chance to sample wines you may not get exposed to otherwise. DeVinos, 2001 18th Street This trendy wine shop is located at the lower tip of Adams Morgan. It’s a fun place to stop in to quickly select a bottle to go with Friday night dinner at home or on your way to a Saturday evening party when you are the one bringing the wine. Their selections run heavy on South American and Italian reds. Staff is friendly and knowledgeable. They offer free tastings Thursday and Friday evenings from 5:30 to 8 p.m. The Wine Specialist, 215 M Street This store has a great selection of Old and New World wines, a surprising amount of half bottle selections and some unusual finds (try a gewürztraminer from Italy and a red zinfandel from Australia). The staff is friendly and enthusiastic for you to taste. Their next tasting is being planned now for Italian wines on March 12. Check their Web site for a calendar of upcoming events or call the store at 202-833-0707. Restaurants: There are more and more wine bars popping up all over the city and too many to mention here. Wine bars and restaurants are a great way to explore wine in an unrushed, relaxed setting, though there is usually a cost involved. These restaurants offer wine flights (usually one- to two-ounce servings of three different wines based on a theme or region) for a typical cost of less than $15: Cork Wine Bar, 1720 14th Street If you can tear yourself away from people watching, Cork offers several wine flights each weekend. On our recent visit they offered four wine flights, ranging in price from $10-15, which consisted of French and Italian wines including prosecco, southwestern French whites and a red wine flight made from montepulciano d'Abruzzo. Cork also has a retail wine store located up the street that offers daily tastings weekdays from 5 to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m. Bistrot Lepic and Wine Bar, 1736 Wisconsin Ave The venerable French bistro located at the top of Georgetown offers free tasting every Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m., and all wines by the glass are half price Wednesday to Monday 5:30 to 7 p.m. Some parting tips: Most wine shops have one or two days a week they have bottles open for complimentary tasting. Call around to local shops near you to check their schedules to verify tastings are being held and which day. Sign up for your favorite store’s wine department e-mail notices. You will often be the first to learn about in-store or special tastings. Don’t be afraid to talk to the person serving the wine. They are usually the wine distributor representative or importer responsible for placing the wine in the store. They get paid to educate you and stir up interest in the wines they offer free samples of, so use them as a source of information. Ask them where they will be doing their next in-store tasting. If you have more questions or don’t have time to get all your questions answered, ask them for their contact information or business card. Use the dump bucket! It’s okay to spit and/or pour the wine out into the dump bucket, especially if you are going to be driving around afterward. And one last tip: Enjoy!

Dining, Harajuku Style

At long last, after two and a half months of anticipation, several blizzards and a flurry of back and forth emails, I was armed with the event’s protocol. It consisted of guest photo op restrictions and apparel parameters from the hosts of a local super-secret dining club. Five couples had agreed to let me cover one of their monthly themed dinners. The hosts: Anonymous members of a private supper club. The location: Somewhere in metropolitan Washington on a hilltop. The plan: A Japanese Harajuku evening with six courses and countless complex accompaniments. The inspiration: Recipes sourced from New York’s Momofuku and Chicago’s Alinea restaurants. The guest list: Serious foodies, gourmands, amateur chefs and wine connoisseurs. The required dress: Creative outfits from the Harajuku movement. On the appointed day I rushed to Google it up — isn’t that how we inform ourselves these days? I learned that Harajuku, which loosely translated means Halloween, originated with Japanese teens meeting up on Sunday afternoons in their neighborhood parks where they sport clothing and makeup inspired by specific themes. It begins with the over-the-top Lolita look, replete with baby doll dresses and large bows or barrettes clipped into brightly dyed pink, blue or purple pigtails, Japanese anime character look-alikes, period Victorian garb and colorful punk gear with Goth-inspired hair and makeup. Matchy-matchy is very uncool, and plaids are routinely mixed with stripes and floral patterns. “Hello Kitty” and “Pokemon” purses and lunch boxes are favored accessories, as are carrying or wearing small “Totoro” stuffed animals or creatures from Japanese animator Takashi Murakami’s line of plush toys. Some styles are straight from high-end designer ateliers, but for the most part it is cobbled together from mismatched thrift shop or boutique finds. It sounds totally anti-fashion, but is actually spectacularly artistic in a bizarre and inventive way. Many current high-fashion runway looks have evolved from this genre. I hastily pulled together a shocking pink Japanese brocade frock coat over a cream-colored Victorian lace blouse with jabot and paired it all with plaid knee socks over black leggings and a black schoolgirl’s kilt. I left the stuffed dinosaur at home, skipped the Kabuki makeup for a smear of lip gloss, and topped it all off with an assortment of rhinestone hair clips. I felt completely off-kilter but ready to channel my inner Japanese teen. I arrived at a large restored colonial with a hawk’s eye view of the city where my hosts, their children and an on-duty Papillon greeted me enthusiastically. I planned on coming early to take some food photos and offer assistance to the host, but the preparations were well underway. My host and chef for the evening handed me a welcoming cocktail, an infusion of Asian pears with sho-chu vodka, and invited me on a tour. The 19th-century high-ceilinged home had two kitchens and a butler’s pantry with 10-foot-high shelves filled with all manner of exotic spices, condiments and a working kitchen’s necessaries. The upstairs kitchen, large and rustic, had a wall of well-used copper pots, another featured a large contemporary oil painting. On the lower level another workspace housed state-of-the-art equipment befitting the molecular gastronomy necessary to achieve our much-anticipated dinner. There was a Pacojet puree machine, an Excalibur food dehydrator, a Minipack Torre vacuum chamber sealer for shrink-wrapping, and a PolyScience sous vide circulating bath for cooking or chilling. Freezer drawers held silicone molds filled with spherical frozen mousse. It immediately became clear that this was more than just a passing interest for my host, and the “Iron Chef”-style excitement ratcheted up a few more notches. As guests filtered in and out of the bustling kitchen and drawing room and the conversation turned lively, the children, clad in their own versions of the “look,” wandered off to wherever it is that children go when they are bored with adult conversation. After a few rounds of champagne, we gathered at the long dining table where food and wine began to consume the conversation and we, in turn, them. The first course presented was a frozen sphere of Maytag blue cheese ice cream surrounded by walnuts in grape syrup, a Port wine gelee, grape foam, walnut milk, celery and celery salt made from stalks dried in the dehydrator — a sort of mad scientist’s Waldorf salad and our host’s nod to Chef Grant Achatz of Alinea Restaurant. It was an inspired, playful and delicious adventure and I ate my way in circles around the plate repeating the yin-yang flavors by turns. A subsequent course proved to be a sensuous dish of riesling gelee over lychee nuts with pine nut brittle and shaved frozen fois gras — a tribute to Momofuku and the genius of Chef David Chang. The mouth feel of this combination was luxurious: the tiny wriggly cubes of late harvest Riesling jelly, tender globular floral-fragrant lychees, crunchy pine nuts with their sap-like aroma encased in hardened caramel and buttery-smooth Hudson Valley duck foie gras raining down over the whole. I was pleased this evening was a secret, for I had no impetus to reveal its mysteries to outsiders just yet. Irresistible slabs of crispy pork belly glistened, and in yet another triumph borrowed from Chang, Bo Ssam, a 10-pound braised pork shoulder, its skin rendered bronze and lacquered with ssam. Platters of just-shucked oysters appeared alongside such sauces and condiments as kimchi, chiles, fermented bean curd, pickled mustard seed sauce, scallion and ginger compote, pickled vegetables and fish sauce. The wines for the evening were carefully selected and exquisite. A Carlisle zinfandel from the Russian River Valley, a double magnum of Poizin Reserve in the skull and crossbones-etched bottle from Armida Winery in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley, a fine 2007 Sea Smoke pinot noir from Santa Barbara County and an extraordinary 2007 Saxum from James Berry Vineyard Proprietary Blend (100 points from Robert Parker!). A wine of such splendor and amplitude begged silent contemplation of its marvels, every sip bespeaking its provenance and development. As my imagination concocted its journey, I envisioned its beautiful grapes slowly ripening on the vine and the experienced decisions of its vintner shepherding its path from birth passage to aging process. With deep regret I had to take my leave for a prior engagement before dessert was served, so I will never know the ending to this evening’s meal. But in a way, like all great meals and all great wines, we stand at the precipice, lured by the siren’s song and the promise to our most fragile selves to relive that evanescent moment when all the gastronomic stars align. To start your own private supper club: There are widely varying degrees of group size and culinary skill levels in each supper club. To start your own, you just need to round up friends of like mind for a once-a-month evening, decide on a theme (My hosts’ club did a multi-course fennel dinner the previous month, with fennel cake and fennel ice cream for dessert!) then decide if it’s “pot luck” or if the host couple will prepare the entire meal. Guests can bring wines but need to consult the host as to the proper pairing. Themes: The fun is in the planning and using your imagination. Single ingredients, ethnic cuisine or holidays can drive the theme of your gathering. I recall once coming upon a group of 20 or so Ukrainians picnicking in Fort Hunt Park last summer. Their party was more of a “pot luck” since each guest brought a dish, but it was marvelous in its variety of homemade pickled cucumbers and mushrooms, potted meats, borscht, a grill laden with skewered lamb shashliks, salads, homemade breads and cakes and, of course, large bowls of fresh cherries. The clear liquid of choice to wash it all down was most decidedly not branch water. For questions or comments on this story contact And if you decide to host your own supper club, let me know how it turned out. Better yet, I’d be delighted to help! [gallery ids="99090,99091,99092,99093" nav="thumbs"]

Catering to Mother Earth

Swiss born and raised, Joêl Thévoz hit Washington in the mid-’80s with a business degree and a briefcase full of fresh ideas. Coming off la vida loca in Costa Rica and Mexico, where his on-the-fly dinners were highly praised by friends and neighbors, he had decided to settle down to a serious culinary career. With his wife and partner, Nancy Goodman, they launched Main Event Caterers in 1995 on K Street in Georgetown. Ten years later they were to bring their ever-expanding operations into Arlington, VA, where their stunning cuisine and lavish events garner rave reviews and an ever-increasing upscale clientele. They ran their company like every other top-tier caterer until three years ago. Motivated by Al Gore’s groundbreaking film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” they had an epiphany and took their successful company to higher level — one with a conscience — where green is the new black. It would hail a new dynamic for Main Event Catering and reflect their growing ecological awareness. Now in the vanguard of a new aesthetic where style meets substance, this sophisticated caterer is a leader in the green revolution, as they continue to be recognized with a growing list of local and national green business awards that reflect their commitment and the caliber of their cuisine. To add to their accomplishments, this year they won the coveted “Caterer of the Year” award from industry giant Catering Magazine. I spoke with the passionately eco-knowledgeable Thévoz and toured the 20,000 square-foot facility with its gleaming stainless steel demonstration kitchen-in-the-round, 25-foot floor-to-ceiling wine wall and extensive culinary library, featuring a precious archive of leather-bound Gourmet magazines dating from 1946. How long have you been on the green bandwagon? We started out being aware of our impact in this world about three years ago. The green movement was just getting started here and, for us, that set the pitchfork in the ground in terms of thinking about what we do and how we do it. There was one very impactful moment for us. It was a day when we were winding up after an event that used disposables. And at the time I was very proud of using the best quality plastics. I took a look at our truckload worth of waste and plastic garbage from this one event and I was literally sick to my stomach. I thought this stuff is going to last forever. What can we do better? What did you do to change your company’s way of doing business? That moment set the tone for a period of discovery. We wondered, “Can we find products that are biodegradable?” It was right about the time when cups made from cornstarch by-product became available. I had seen them used in an airport in England and brought some back with me. But it was a real challenge to find these things in the U.S. We started digging around and discovered they were making plates from dead palm fronds in India. They are sandwich-pressed using steam into these flat shapes with a bit of curvature to make a plate. Then they are hand-scissored to size. Finally, we could eliminate all plastics from our catered service, and now we only use biodegradable palm plates, balsa wood cutlery, washable glassware and other biodegradable products for our events using disposables. Also, we use purified water in jugs in place of mini plastic bottles. How do you recycle? We bring large recycling cans on site, and all our staff is trained to separate out recyclables like paper, cardboard, tin, glass and plastic. Then it gets brought back here where we take it to the recycling center. It does add to the workload of an event, but we still do it effectively. We also decided to add solar concentrators to the roof over the individual offices to bring in light and we are now replacing all our metal halide lights with T5 lights that use a minimal amount of electricity and are motion-sensitive. This way they shut off when someone leaves the room. The floors here are bamboo, the ice machines use filtered water and we clean and press all our linens to lessen our carbon footprint. To be carbon-neutral we buy carbon credits to offset all the energy that is used, as with our trucks going to and from events. Also, we calculated the approximate employee commute for the whole team and buy carbon credits to offset all those greenhouse gases, so that now we are 100 percent carbon-neutral. We’ve been doing that for three years. What other ways have you found to save energy? For one thing, we compost our food matter to make high-quality soil that we distribute to our community, and we collect and store all of our used cooking oil, that we donate to a local biodiesel cooperative. Also, we wanted to subsidize wind power. So we purchase an equivalent amount of electricity from a wind farm. And though it is off-site, it gives us the advantage of being technically wind-powered. It tells the energy company that we are serious and we want to spend our money on clean energy … because unless you prove with dollars that there is a desire to purchase alternative energy, they won’t listen. We’ve seen how it creates momentum when a lot of companies get involved. Have you figured out how much more it costs to do business in this way? We have a general idea, and of course the start-up costs were quite high, but it is far outweighed by the amount of business we receive from clients that are like-minded. Companies and individuals who like what we are doing eventually gravitate to us and we feel rewarded. We live happy and it has paved the way to the next stages in our development. It’s given us the knowledge and the confidence and introduced us to organizations that have things to offer us that are above and beyond anything else that we’ve done so far. What are some of the newest technologies that you’ll be using? Lately we find we are becoming a sort of incubator for green solutions. Not long ago we had a visit from a gentleman based in Florida and began to talk about using geothermal. I mentioned how our dishwasher pushes out gallons of 180 degree water and it just goes down the drain. He told us we could divert it and harness it. Ultimately his company designed a product for us using heat exchange and we’ll be testing it here. The plan is to have it up and running in a few weeks. In a nutshell, we will be running “grey” water alongside the city water pipes to super-heat municipal water. The fresh and “grey” water don’t mix together. There are membranes between the two of them. But in this way we can take the 65 degree water from the county and introduce it through our ”grey” water cisterns before it goes into the pipes. Eventually it will raise the temperature of our instant hot water for our washing machines two-fold to 130-160 degrees. It will save us a lot on gas usage. Is that a cost to the city? No, we handle it all from here. We’ll build a tank and the city water will go right through it. We’re also looking at placing these huge cisterns beside our buildings to gather and harness the rainwater from our roofs. Imagine! They can collect up to 40,000 gallons per month of water. What we want to do is use those tanks for latent energy. We subscribe to a train of thought that the future of this world is based upon communities building vertical farming. We have these flat roofs here and we are in the process of designing a rooftop garden with greenhouses to grow all our own vegetables and herbs. We have at least 6,000 square feet of roof space. We want to prove that it can be done and share the plots with the community. The greenhouse will be hydroponic and aeroponic, which is a system NASA developed that uses an oscillator that is introduced into a water tank. You create a certain vibration and it renders the water into a mist. You can then push that vapor, with pressure, into a system of canals or closed chambers in which the roots of your vegetables thrive without soil. Every intermittent three minutes the pipes are filled and then flushed. It works like a rainforest. The plants grow at 2-3 times the speed. What about the “terroir” — the taste imparted to the vegetables from the soil and its minerals? Won’t that be missed? We can introduce that into the water by making a slurry from our compost and extracting the minerals out in liquid form to fortify the water, or we can buy organic feed to add to it. Our last initiative will be to crush our glass and smelt it in kilns and create recycled glass slabs to use for platters and bowls. We are interested in inviting others, even our competitors, to see how we are doing this. We look to inspire others. What do you see for the future of catering? I foresee in the next few decades that we’ll move towards a more vegan and a more raw diet and a more healthful nutritious diet. So we’re making a small push to increase our vegetarian options and training ourselves to be better at cooking those options for our clients that want them, and for the future of our planet too. For questions or comments contact [gallery ids="99115,99116,99117" nav="thumbs"]

The Latest Dish, April 7

  -Chef Robert Wiedmaier will expand his restaurant empire into Maryland when he opens The Mussel Bar by RW sometime in May (if the construction gods allow). The Woodmont Avenue location in Bethesda used to house Levante’s. Besides Belgian beer, mussels, fries and rock ’n’ roll, Wiedmaier will offer a basic menu of limited choices of fish, steak, crepes salads, oysters and, okay, two desserts. In a few weeks, the team behind Clarendon’s Liberty Tavern will open two new eateries in the same neighborhood: first they’ll debut Northside Social, a coffeehouse and wine bar, which will open in Clarendon near Liberty. Chef Liam LaCivita will oversee both. Owners will also open Lyon Hall, a European-style brasserie, on Washington Boulevard. UK native Andy Bennett will be the chef de cuisine. Bennett has impressive credentials, as he worked for Daniel Boulud in New York. Robert Valencia has been named pastry chef for all three establishments. He hails from Boulevard in San Francisco and Blue Fin in New York. Chef Update: Mark Hellyar has been named executive chef of Hook and Tackle Box restaurants in Georgetown. He served as chef de cuisine at the Oak Door at the Grand Hyatt, but he was in D.C. before that, as chef de cuisine at D.C.’s Blue Duck Tavern. Barry Zoslow has been named executive chef at Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s Tallula and EatBar. Previously, he was exec chef at Mendocino Grille and Wine Bar in Georgetown. Kyle Bailey and Tiffany MacIsaac, formerly of Allen & Delancey, are now at Birch & Barley/ChurchKey in D.C. Pete’s Apizza, with one location in Columbia Heights, is slated to open a second on Wisconsin Avenue at Fessenden Street. It serves New Haven-style pizza (thin-crusted). New Haven-style pizza was introduced to D.C. by relocated brother and sister pizza lovers Michael and Alicia Wilkinson, from New Haven. Owner Diton Pashaj says Rustik Neighborhood Tavern is slated to open in Bloomingdale at 1832 First St. this May. It will offer lunch, brunch, dinner, happy hour and outdoor seating. Now they just need their permit. Tackle Box in Georgetown has plans to expand into Bethesda and Penn Quarter, according to its menu notes. A wine bar by the name of Dickson Wine is slated to open on U Street where Project 4 Art Gallery was, in the Dickson Building. Will PJ Clarke’s (another New York restaurant!) really open in the old Olives location? Bill Thomas of Bourbon and Breadsoda in Glover Park plans to transform an old gym into Jack Rose, a restaurant and bar at 2007 18th St. Now slated to open in April: Ted’s BULLETIN on Barrack’s Row. American comfort food with Art Deco décor, and featuring a shaketender mixologist for milkshakes. Ted’s BULLETIN is from the folks who brought you Matchbox in Chinatown and Capitol Hill. Roberto Donna’s Galileo III, in the old Butterfield 9 space is also slated to open this month.

Forces of Nature

  -Organic wine is a hot concept in this age of green, but a survey of some area wine stores and restaurants turned up a paltry few venues that carry more then one or two offerings. Most wine bars I’ve surveyed carried none. Then I hit pay dirt one Saturday at Vinoteca’s, located at 1940 11th Street. They offered a whooping eight organic or green wines by the glass. For those interested in not only practicing environmentally responsible living but drinking will have to search for green wines. Luckily there are varying degrees of “greenness” to choose from so the field of choices widens. There are two types you will encounter: organic and biodynamic wines. Organic wines are produced using organically grown grapes without pesticides, herbicides or anything ending in “-cide” or added sulfites. A truly organic wine is not only expensive to produce, but hard to bring to market in a stable and palatable condition because no chemicals are used. The number of truly organic wines available is small, hence the challenge in finding wine bars who carried more then a few. Biodynamic wines are also made from organic grapes but, according the, the farmer also employs principals that cause the grape vines to respond to “all the forces of nature.” Biodynamics is based on the concept of a holistic system of “living agriculture” whereby the soil is nurtured through the “natural forces and rhythm of the cosmos,” writes Karen McNeil, author of the book “The Wine Bible.” The vineyards are viewed in a year-long growing cycle where nutrients and special preparations are added to the soil at the right time and season. Therefore soil nourishments and farming techniques take into account the flow of energy emanating from the sun, moon and stars. The practice is said to have begun in France in 1959, based on the principles of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Wines that are organic or green are said to have brighter and fresher tastes and colors. They are purported to express better connectedness to the region or land they are grown from, their “terrior.” Intrigued that there might be something to the healthy growing of grapes and all the sun, moon and stars talk, I explored a few mentioned below. So you can judge for yourself, here are a few to try: Alma Rosa chardonnay, 2008 Santa Barbara, CA Made in the French Chablis style with a hint of oak. The chardonnay shows classic notes of pineapple and orange peel with a minerally finish. Crisp and refreshing. Alexander Valley Vineyards gewürztraminer, 2009 Apple, lemon, grapefruit flavors with a beautiful floral aroma. Gavala Vineyards assyrtiko, 2008 Santorini, Greece Made from one of Greece’s most popular grape varieties. Yellow gold in color. Aromas of peaches and candied fruit are evident. Lanolin-like mouth feel. This wine exhibits the assyrtiko grape’s signature minerality. Telmo Rodriguez Dehesa Gago tinto de Toro, 2007 This Spanish tempranillo-based wine is dark red and rich. First sips experience spicy pepper, then a hint of chocolate. This wine is top rated by several notable wine critics for its quality and value. Campos de Luz Old Vine garnacha (grenache), 2008 One hundred percent grenache, which normally is a thinner-skinned red grape that produces a thin light red wine; however, this Grenache is rich and supple. Exhibits dark cherry, black plumb and blackberry flavors. For organic or green wines close to home, try these local vineyards: Pearmund Cellars, Fauquier County, VA Blenheim Vineyards, Charlottesville, VA

Pina Colada: African Style

The piña colada is a well-known tropical drink. The sheer mention of it conjures up images of beach bars and tiny cocktail umbrellas. While the drink’s origins hail from Puerto Rico, this festive libation is a staple at vacation spots around the globe. Recently while on holiday in Ghana, my interest was piqued by a sign at my beachfront retreat that boasted the “Best Piña Colada this Side of the Equator.” The sprawling complex, dubbed Big Milly’s Backyard, was a laid-back place filled with friendly locals and mellow Rastafarians. Small bungalows and huts were dispersed through out the palm-shaded grounds dotted with an oceanfront restaurant and 24-hour open-air bar which featured live reggae and African drumming shows. One afternoon as the scorching sun baked everyone at the beach, I decided to test Big Milly’s cocktail claims. Paajoe Quansah, a helpful young man who seemed to be a jack-of-all-trades around the complex, volunteered to mix a piña colada for me. He started off by taking off his shoes and leaving the bar. Puzzled, I followed him a short distance to a towering palm tree, which he proceeded to climb. I strained my neck to look up as he scampered to dizzying heights where the coconuts grew and dropped several of them to the ground. I was in awe — this was going to be one mighty fresh piña colada! Once he safely made it back to ground level, he split the coconuts open with a machete. First he expertly carved a spout and poured out the juice, which he shared with two eager young local children that suddenly appeared nearby. Next he used a knife to scrape the meat from the coconut and added it to the water. After repeating the process with about four coconuts, he combined the coconut meat and water in a blender to make a thick and frothy mixture. Once the fresh coconut puree was prepared, Paajoe began to build my cocktail. He added two shots of African rum to the liquid coconut. He topped it off with a generous splash of Big Milly’s freshly squeezed pineapple juice, which on its own was a popular refresher at the bar. The finished cocktail was served over ice. Its flavor was bright and fresh and not overly sweet. It stood as a stark contrast to the sickly sweet frozen piña coladas made with commercially prepared mixes. However the generous portions of local rum did provide a noticeable burn. After two of these elixirs, the sun seemed to mellow out a bit and I felt a little cooler. The rest of the afternoon flowed nicely into serene sunset followed by dinner and a late night wiling away at the bar. Piña Colada - Ghanaian Style 3-4 coconuts Water 1-2 pineapples Rum Sugar to taste Drain liquid from coconuts. Many coconuts sold in the U.S. will have little or no liquid inside. Scrape meat from coconut and add to blender. Blend until fluid, adding water as necessary. Remove fruit from pineapple and juice in a blender. Imported pineapples will be less sweet than locally grown African fruit, so add sugar to taste. In a tall glass, add 3 ounces rum; add 2 ounces pineapple juice and 2 ounces coconut mixture. Serve over ice. [gallery ids="99118,99119" nav="thumbs"]

The Jockey Club, Redefined

When I heard they had revamped The Jockey Club, Washington’s bastion of the old guard and sanctuary for the well-heeled, my heart sank. The power dining spot in its heyday, it was a place where gentlemen’s chauffeurs waited, purposeful young men, hoping to impress, brought their dates and fashionable ladies lunched in suits and jewels. It stood alone in cataloguing the comings and goings of elite Washington society. And though the menu rarely changed, there was comfort in the veal paillard avec foie gras and the delicate Dover sole meuniere. No culinary acrobatics here. On a perfect spring afternoon we drove up to the porte-cochere at The Fairfax at Embassy Row. The original Jockey Club lantern stood beside the black-booted jockey, still sporting his red and white racing silks, and the etched brass plaque were in situ as we strode into the newly decorated dining room. Gone were the red and white-checked tablecloths and the dark-stained wooden booths (how they had held such charm is now inexplicable). In their place is an elegant, understated room flooded with sunlight, soft colors, suede banquettes and equine portraiture. But the food, my dears, after all, that is why I have come. Levi Mezick is a young chef whose modern French cuisine has thrown down the gauntlet to every French chef in this city as he displays a new dynamic for Washingtonian gastrophiles. Mezick trained under Edouard Loubet, the Provencal chef whose Domaine de Capelongue restaurant in Luberon sports two Michelin stars. He cut his teeth in the New York kitchens of Daniel Boulud at Daniel and Café Boulud, and later at Thomas Keller’s Per Se. All revel in three Michelin-starred restaurants and all are in the forefront of progressive French cuisine. We started with a simple butternut squash soup with cinnamon croutons and cranberry coulis, nicely executed though a bit behind the season. But it was the next dish, a snapper carpaccio exquisitely articulated with rings of blood orange segments and red radishes swirling around the thinly-sliced raw fish, that foretold the glories that lay ahead. We swooned and chirped over a glorious crab salad, a destination dish, mounted atop green apple gelee and celery root remoulade, an old French classic reinvented with a lively balance of creamy and tart. A delicious bread-crusted sea bass on basmati rice showed Indian-Asian influences with trails of coriander, tamarind and kaffir lime oil, highlighted by tender baby bok choy aswirl in an airy coconut foam. A duo of Pineland Farms local beef — red wine-braised short rib and seared strip loin — struck a lovely chord among sunchokes and pommes dauphine, accented by a rich Bordelaise sauce fragrant with marrow bone, wine and herbs. Sadly, desserts don’t measure up to Meznick’s triumphs. Pastry Chef Lisa Hood, who was at the Inn at Little Washington and Westend Bistro, will hopefully have more to offer on my next visit. For the present, a serviceable but plebeian chocolate-crusted Key lime cheesecake with raspberry coulis, and a Valrhona chocolate crème brulee with fresh berries will have to suffice. It was too early in the day to tipple, but rest assured the wine list is breathtaking. Cellaring over 450 labels and vintages, it is certainly one to explore over many occasions. Mostly weighted on the French side, it ranges from Nuits-St. Georges, Pommards and Chambertins to Meursaults and Puligny-Montrachets. Yet there are also stunning brunellos and barolos and nine Chateaux d’Yquem to quibble over. This “new” Jockey Club is as alluring as a first kiss. Just as impressive as ever, it has returned with a fresh cachet, a winning new chef and a dining room to match the restrained elegance of its cuisine. For questions or comments, contact [gallery ids="102622,102599,102614,102607" nav="thumbs"]

The Bad Boy of Good Food

As the host of the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations,” Anthony Bourdain is the consummate dinner guest. An endearing enfant terrible, with a peripatetic wanderlust to rival Darwin and a puckish swagger that would make Bluebeard seem as docile as a clam, he slurps and sups the world’s melting pot in dogged pursuit of ethno-gastronomic delicacies. With cheerful I’ll eat-anything-you-put-in-front-of-me sangfroid, he lustily relishes fish brains, ant larvae, pig’s eyeballs, sparrow liqueur and the like on his adventures to far-flung locales. For his endless curiosity he has garnered a devoted audience, three Emmy nominations and has penned eight bestsellers, including the deliciously lurid “Kitchen Confidential.” In his latest memoir, “Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook,” due out next month, he threatens to yank the delicate scrim off noted chefs. Alice Waters, David Chang and “Top Chef” winners and losers will feel the sting of the provocateur’s barbs. The gritty and endearing Bourdain will appear at the Warner Theatre on May 21 with cohort and chef/restaurateur Eric Ripert of D.C.’s Westend Bistro and New York’s famous Le Bernadin for an evening of tale-swapping and secrets of restaurant skullduggery. In a recent interview, he spoke to me about his life, his new book and his upcoming appearance in Washington. You take inordinate pleasure in poking the prevailing food fashionistas, uncovering the raw underbelly of restaurants, and snubbing the establishment. What propels you on to your next adventure? I have a restless and curious mind, and as much as I might not like to face it, I’m probably becoming the food establishment at this point. But I do it because I can. It’s my nature. I get angry when I see abuse, and ecstatic when the experience is great. I enjoy traveling. I like chefs and get paid to do what I like doing. And, thankfully, I’m not expected to behave or be diplomatic. I’m clearly very lucky and very foolish to do what I do and thankfully I can benefit from low expectations. With Eric [Ripert], he and I have a lot in common, but he has the burden of a reputation to protect and I don’t. Your independent, take-no-prisoners style of writing is delightfully anarchic. What makes for a good food writer, in your opinion? Certainly a willingness to step out of one’s comfort zone. If you’re writing about food, it’s very, very important to like and appreciate the people that make your food … also, a lack of snobbery, definitely honesty and to not be willfully disingenuous. If you really enjoy eating food I don’t think you have to know about food. That will come. But you should be passionate about it. Be an honest broker with an open mind and an open heart. I think some of the most dynamic writing on food is obviously coming off the blogosphere. The chimera is a fabulous fire-breathing monster with the head of a lion, body of a goat, and tail of a serpent. Would you eat it and how would you prepare it? If I were surprised by it as a guest in someone’s home in a developing country, I would accept it out of politeness, rather than offend my host. Though if I were to prepare it, I’d cook it low and slow with a bottle of good wine. You’ve eaten your way throughout the four corners of the world. What fusion would you create that hasn’t yet been done? I’m generally not a fan, I think it’s dangerous territory. But two of my favorite restaurants are in New York, Momofuku Ko and Momofuku Saam, which use French, Southern American, Italian and Korean fusion. It’s utterly fantastic, perhaps because it breaks all the rules. There have been three books written about [actress] Louise Brooks. One is her autobiography in which she speaks of my grandfather as her greatest paramour. You said that Louise Brooks would be a preferred dining companion at your last supper? Why did you choose her? I enjoyed her autobiography, “Lulu in Hollywood,” and saw two of her films. I think she was a fascinating and an extraordinarily forward-thinking and independent woman, especially for her times. She struck me as someone with interesting things to say and who would be a powerful presence at the dining table. On to the more mundane — what are your favorite restaurants in D.C.? Any restaurant that Jose Andres is associated with. I love Minibar! I love Michel Richard and Bob Kinkead’s place! Oh my God! Who am I leaving out? Oh, and El Pollo Rico! And Eamonn’s too in Alexandria! What do you cook at home? Cooking pasta makes me happy. Maybe a steak, but I like to use one pan and keep it simple. I have so little time to spend with my family. In NYC I just pick up the phone and I can order Japanese, Thai, Chinese and French — or a human head delivered! What foods would you like to see more of in the US? I like bottarga [cured fish roe] very much and jamon Iberico [Iberian cured ham]. And I know it’s a dream, but more unpasteurized raw milk cheeses, especially really stinky ones from France and Italy … and artisanal sausages from Sardinia. I’m a sushi slut, so, I’d say more high-quality sushi … though maybe not, because of the over-fishing. As an institution I would like to see Singapore-style hawkers’ centers. That would be a great development for our country. What importance do you accord to ambiance, food, and service to define a successful restaurant? These days I like ambiance and service as unobtrusive and informal as possible. What I really appreciate at Momofuku Ko is you’re getting two-star Michelin food over a counter, directly from a cook who’s wearing a dishwasher’s shirt. That’s awesome! I don’t need flowers and china and expensive silverware, unless you’re talking about French Laundry or Per Se. I am breathless with admiration for those two. But more often then not it’s about the food. If I’m comfortable without a tie, I’m more likely to be enjoying my food. I’d just as soon be in cut-offs and bare feet. You’ve experienced foods from cultures that no outsider will ever taste. Please choose from the following answers. If an ivory-billed woodpecker was struck by a car and lay by the roadside as you were on my afternoon stroll, you would: A) Try to revive it; B) Call the local bird rehabilitator; C) Fire up the grill; D) Go for the eyeballs first Call the bird rehabilitator. Oh my, you are a romantic! I like cute animals. What can you tell me about your new book? I am living in a state somewhere between suspended animation and mortal terror. It comes out June 8 and I have no idea how it will be received. I’m pretty sure there are going to be people pretty angry with me, but it’s too late to stop it now. Talk to me in two months! Right now I’m really looking forward to coming to D.C. to do this rare gig with Eric. For tickets to “No Reservations: An Evening with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert,” visit []( For questions or comments, contact