On New York Social Diary today I write about the new hot Washington restaurant: Le Diplomate at the fashionable corner of 14th and Q. Please give it a read.
On New York Social Diary today I write about the new hot Washington restaurant: Le Diplomate at the fashionable corner of 14th and Q. Please give it a read.
Where to begin. Today the buzz was about a brunch up the hill in Georgetown at the mansion fomerly owned by Katharine Graham, when actually the place to be was Cafe Milano. When we first arrived at Milano we saw our friend Tina Brown, who had been at the brunch. "I realized I didn't want to eat standing and holding a plate," she said. TINA BROWN, KATHY O'HEARN AND HARRY EVANS AT LUNCH AT CAFE MILANO
Cafe Milano felt as buzzy as any party (as it often does). There was Tina and her husband, Harry Evans, and Tina's colleague Kathy O'Hearn, but also the foreign minister of Jordan; philanthropist Adrienne Arsht, having lunch with the mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa; Francesca Zambello, artistic director of the Washington National Opera; MC Hammer with Raul Fernandez and a group of friends, and, at the table adjacent to ours, Ron Dozoretz and Nnamdi Asomugha, who just signed with the San Francisco 49ers. The difference between here and elsewhere was quiet quality versus mosh pit. Charlie Rose found respite at Milano, too.
But Nnamdi was the man of the hour, with group after group of people stopping by his table to pay respects. No surprise, read about him. An incredible professional football career as well as a remarkable pattern of philanthropy and commitment to causes.
For a moment, but in broad daylight, Milano felt like Rao's.
(deleted. hahaha. sometimes i write crazy s**t)
We're actually taping an episode of The Q&A Cafe today, but it's in studio and without an audience. It's a spring/summer preview of fashion, food and the arts for DC. I'll let you know the air date asap, but it's likely to be this Friday, April 26. The guests are colleagues from Washingtonian, discussing their beats: Kate Bennett on fashion, Sophie Gilbert on the arts, and Jessica Voelker on food and restaurants.
Our next Q&A Cafe taping at the Ritz Carlton Georgetown is on Thursday, May 9, when the guest will be Christopher Kennedy Lawford, grandson nephew of JFK, as well as an actor, author, activist, drug addict and alcoholic, who has been in recovery for more than two decades. He has quite a story to tell.
Seating begins at noon, the fee is $38 covering all costs of lunch, soft beverages, tax, tip and dessert from Georgetown Cupcake. For reservations please call the hotel directly at 202.912.4100 and speak with Esmaralda Prifold or email her directly.
Just about the only thing that lifted my spirits this evening was that the butcher, Jaime Stachowski, was having an equally non-A day, and then, also, what he sold to me - a freshly pounded chicken paillard. We commiserated but decided not to discuss the details of our blue moods. Save that for another, brighter day. Instead, we talked about food. I noticed the foie gras and asked if he'd be making terrine. "Soon," he said. "I've had many requests." Can't wait. I asked him to please let me know the next time he makes his fabulous boudin blanc. He wanted me to buy liver. Nah, I told him. I had prime rib last night, beaucoup Chinoise the night before, and Bourbon Steak the night before that. "How about a stuffed pork chop?" he asked. No, not tonight. We settled on a chicken breast and, obligingly, he pounded it flat as a pancake for me.
It doesn't get more simple than this preparation: I heated up good olive oil in the sauté pan, added salt, pepper, diced shallots, chunks of celery, and when everything began to rip I slipped in the chicken. I served it with apple chutney, French chardonnay, candle light and Seinfeld.
Result: spirits lifted.
Such a simple and casual meal. The chips make it casual, but I like the contrasting crunch that chips add to a Sunday egg dish vs roasted potatoes. Pommes Soufflé would be the ideal, but I didn't have the time. I started with a big bunch of fresh baby spinach, sauteéd with truffle oil and pinches of salt, pepper and grated nutmeg, and set it aside. Made the omelettes with fresh farmers eggs. Good fresh eggs don't need anything added to them beyond salt and pepper. I debated whether to add mushrooms or parmesan, and even Virginia country ham, but opted to, again, keep it simple. After all, the theme here was the color green.
The photo below shows one of the omelettes cut open. With it, a glass of French sauvignon blanc. As Selma Blair says daily on my TV: "awesome."
The green bagels from Georgetown Bagelry, served at breakfast, were devoured before they could be photographed, alas.
Note: My firned Lynn Novelli said she missed my postings about food/home cooking. I said I do it principally when I'm NOT eating a lot/dieting. Well, I'm about to start a spring cleanse & detox & shape up (as in no potato chips!), so brace yourselves for lots of food porn.
I love this place. The Columbia Room is one of America's great bars, though not conventional, more of a "club" or "speakeasy." And Derek Brown is such a talent and charmer. It's a pleasure to listen to him, to watch him create and to drink his cocktails. Easily the perfect spot for St. Patrick's Day eve.
There was a party Thursday evening to celebrate the re-opening of Chevy Chasy Pavilion in Friendship Heights. While the party took place on a few of the mall's floors, the place to be for good food and drinks was Range restaurant. My story on the party is here at washingtonian.com. These are some extra photos I took that focus mostly on the food, because the food was as photogenic as it was delicious. Coincidentally, WTOP's Alicia Lozano posted an interesting story about the rise in food porn. Clearly I'm a perpetrator.
Despite few dollars, the fiscal cliff and other omens of woe, and thanks to the collective spirit of friends, we began the New Year appropriately - with full-on decadence. Sliced Scottish Smoked Salmon on toast points with condiments of chopped egg, onion, and capers, accompanied by Russian vodka; Malpeque's on the half shell with caviar, accompanied by premier cru French chablis, and home steamed lobsters with lots of drawn butter and lemon, accompanied by New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Side dishes were homemade corn pudding, and kale with sausage and apples. Dessert: chocolate cake, of course. The oysters and lobsters came from Cannons and were delicious. The sausage, also yummy, from Stachowski's. The eggs and kale from the Palisades Farmers Market
Huffington Post ran a terrific health story in which it said the secret was to enjoy the holiday indulgences with abandon, accept the bothersome "holiday bloat" and then return to healthy eating habits after today, or tomorrow. That's one of my New Year's plans.
SUMMER LOBSTER DINNER AT THE HOME OF JEAN PERIN
It's that time of year, when those who remember ask me to please re-publish the recipe for Howard's Egg Nog. Back in the day my husband, Howard Joynt, would whip up big batches of very potent home made egg nog. In the few days running up to Christmas he offered it free of charge at his saloon, Nathans. For a few select friends he would bottle it, and give it as gifts. When Nathans closed I lost the means to pull the required many bottles of premium rum, bourbon and cognac off the shelf to make the famed home brew. But the recipe should endure.
If Howard were alive today he would no doubt be a big fan of Derek Brown at the Columbia Room, maybe they'd have a mentor-protege relationship, because looking back I realize Howard was a master mixologist before his time, maybe DC's first. He loved the anthropology of classic cocktails, the craft of making a good drink, and especially designing a recipe. For example, he was making his own "flavored" vodkas long before the major producers bought into the trend. Today he would be making bitters and bourbon.
So, while I may not be able to offer free glasses of potent egg nog at Wisconsin and M, I am able to offer up the recipe. Worth noting: Howard composed this recipe after we attended a White House Christmas party in 1985, where we enjoyed especially the White House Egg Nog - which back then was still made from scratch - and he huddled with one of the veteran White House bartenders to learn the details of the recipe. Howard's version is based on the White House classic with his professional embellishments.
It was always whipped up in our large kitchen at home on the Chesapeake Bay, which was had stone walls and a big fireplace and views of the water in three directions. I didn't own a restaurant back then (thankfully that was his business) but I was seriously into cooking. I took cooking lessons each week from the brilliant Gerard Pangaud and made all our meals in that kitchen, kept it tidy and pristine between making lamb stew, coq au vin, roasted game, tart tatin or chocolate souffles. The Annual Night of the Egg Nog, however, was just the opposite. Howard was the mad mixologist, whisks and blenders whirring, eggs and their shells flying. When he was done it was a mess. But the result, the egg nog, was glorious. He was damned proud of that egg nog, and with good reason.
After inheriting Nathans, I continued the Egg Nog ritual, but had the chef and cooks make it in Nathans kitchen. Drinking it each Christmas became a token of remembrance - for me, for friends, and for the staff. I don't miss owning Nathans but I do miss the tradition of Howard's Egg Nog.
If you were a Nathans fan, or are an Egg Nog connoisseur, perhaps you will recreate it at home. I promise reward.
HOWARD'S EGG NOG
5 Egg Yolks
5 Egg Whites
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup bourbon
3/4 cup cognac
3/4 cup dark rum
1 quart milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pint heavy cream
Premium quality vanilla ice cream (Moorenko's or Dolcezza, for example)
-Combine yolks and sugar in and bowl and beat to ribbon stage
-Add bourbon, rum, cognac to yolk mix
-Let those ingredients rest, and while they rest
-Whip egg whites to stiff peak
-Whip the cream to medium thickness
-Fold whites and cream together, and then add yolks and alchohol, and stir for at least 1 minute
-Add spices (nutmeg and vanilla)
Chill in the refrigerator overnight.
Serve in a punch bowl with a big chunk of premium vanilla ice cream in the punch bowl
Stir regularly when serving
Happy 21st Birthday to my son, Spencer, and a million loving thank you's to his godmother, Jean Perin, for hosting his birthday dinner at The Inn at Little Washington, and to his godfather, Patrick O'Connell, the Inn's chef and owner, for creating a memorable, sensational and delicious birthday dinner.
The meal began with Louis Roederer Cristal and caviar and danced on for seven more elegant and inventive courses ... and that's not counting the assortment of groovy canapés we devoured before dinner in The Inn's "living room."
We were joined by some of our dearest friends, who all go way back with us: Ellen Charles, Sally Hosta, and Beverly and John Fox Sullivan. (John is also Little Washington's mayor, and we sat at "the mayor's table.") Collectively we gave Spencer a birthday gift of a trip to Las Vegas, with one TBA traveling companion. That went over well, to say the least.
The menu included these dishes: A Shot of White Bean Soup with Truffled Grilled Cheese Sandwich; The Mayor's Oyster Slurpees; A Tin of Sin; Nantucket Bay Scallops Sautéed with Curried Cauliflower, Sultanas and Garlic Chips; Olive-Crusted Chesapeake Bay Rockfish with Artichoke Tortellini in an Orange Pernod Essence; Spencer's Halloween Pumpkin filled with Pumpkin Risotto and the Season's First White Truffles from Alba; Pan Seared Duck Breast with Seared Foie Gras and Red Wine Poached Pear.
There were sumputous wine pairings for each course, including a Grand Cru white Burgundy and a white Châteauneuf du Pape and the showstopper, a DRC Echézeaux from Spencer's birth year, 1991. Howard bought the bottle for Spencer's 21st and it had been resting in the Inn's wine cellar all these years, waiting for this occasion. It was as magnificent, earthy and palate-boggling as this wine can be, and took me back to so many, many meals with Howard and a bottle of DRC. It was our first date wine, with many more to come over the next 20 years. His favorite, though, was Echézeaux (with La Tâche not far behind). So, as we sipped this wine, Howard was with us at the dinner.
There were many toasts through the meal, and the telling of stories of how we all met, and memories of Howard and recollections of Spencer's variety of markers along the path of growing up. And gift giving, of course. Spencer had gifts from Texas for everyone, including a Stetson for Jeannie and a "Longhorns" sweat shirt for Patrick and a Texas t-shirt for John, and hats and bracelets for Beverly, Ellen and Sally.
From gift-giving it was on to dessert. Pumpkins played a role twice in the meal. And here's the backstory: Spencer's first overnight at The Inn was when he was 5 weeks old. There have been dozens more visits over the years, but the one he mentions the most often is the time we spent Halloween there, when he was almost 2-years-old, and Patrick served him pasta in a pumpkin. Thus the pumpkin risotto in a pumpkin/squash. Also, when the birthday cake was rolled out under a sugar dome, it was revealed to be adorned with marzipan pumpkins and to be made of pumpkin spice cake.
Searching through photo albums, I found some photos from the very dinner where Spencer had the pasta in a pumpkin. It's notable that he was also dressed as a pumpkin ....SPENCER, AT ALMOST 2-YEARS-OLD, HAVING PASTA IN A PUMPKIN AT THE INN
I can't begin to count the ways Patrick and Jeannie have been good friends to Spencer. And I should point out how the same can be said for his absent godparents: Harry Shearer and Judith Owen and Sahm Doherty Sefton. A very happy memory is a two week boat trip, organized by Howard when Spencer was 4, into the Everglades and up the West Coast of Florida that included Harry, Judith and Jeannie.
It was midnight when dinner began to slow toward conclusion. There were many hugs as we said good-bye to Patrick, the staff and to Jeannie and Sally, who were headed back toward Middleburg. As unbelievable as it may sound, given all we'd consumed, the Sullivans, Spencer, Ellen and I returned to the Sullivans, where we were spending the night, for nightcaps of rare Kentucky bourbon. It was so much fun. What was most remarkable was that this morning, when I woke up around 9, I was able to walk and talk.
Rachel Hayden, who is one of the managers of The Inn, made a booklet-style menu for the evening that included a lot of photos from over the years. Photos of Spencer with Howard. Photos of Spencer with Patrick. Photos of Spencer and me at various Inn meals and overnight stays. On the back cover was the photo above, of Spencer having a father-son breakfast at The Inn. I love that photo. Below is another favorite. It's Spencer and me on The Inn's back terrace, in the spring after Howard died. It reminds me of the safe haven Patrick provided for us; a place to be together and feel secure.
I stopped in at the News Channel 8 studios today to talk about the November and December issues of The Washingtonian with Let's Talk Live co-host Natasha Barrett. I followed a food segment which made the studio smell so much better than the typical TV studio. TV shows should always have food segments -- for the sake of the staff and guests.
Watch the segment, but I'll give you a tease: the December issue of the magazine would make you think we can see into the future.
In one brief interview we discussed these topics: the Petraeus scandal, love affairs, love and marriage, how to stay married in this town, Cleveland Park, Palena Restaurant, the Uptown Theater, 2 Amy's, Hillwood museum, Cactus Cantina and more.
Last night at the French Embassy there was enough Champagne to last through Thanksgiving and into Christmas and New Year's. It was called the "Champagne Ball." I'll have more about it Monday on washingtonian.com, but here's a few photos.
Wishing a Buon Anniversario to Cafe Milano today. It opened in Georgetown twenty years ago on this day, November 3rd. Midday the place was bustling. Not clear if many customers knew the specialness of the occasion, but that's okay. A good time at every table, under the exceptional, watchful eye of manager Laurent Menoud. I was with Hugh Jacobsen and Faya Causey - for the pleasure of their company, of course, but also to celebrate Faya's new book, Amber, published by Getty. At an adjacent table was my colleague, Washingtonian food and restaurant writer, Anna Spiegel, with her parents, visiting from far off McLean.
Two things about this occasion: the number 20 is huge in restaurant years; and every restaurant should be so fortunate to have a manager such as Laurent.
When my office set up a web page for people to post their Hurricane Sandy meals, I was inspired. But on the day of Hurricane Sandy I went out to Clyde's for a "hurricane lunch" and that raucous and filling meal was enough to get me from the day into and through the night. So, I'm hoping a supper after the storm still counts. (If not I'll give our team of ace foodies a hard time tomorrow).
Today I wasn't sure what I wanted except that I felt it should counter the weather, meaning a kind of stick-to-the-bones carnivore tilt. My inclination is to go to Cannon's and buy a piece of fish but my main meal yesterday was a steamed lobster. Lobster is the best possible way to conjure being on a mooring in Nantucket harbor in a blow. Being anywhere up north in a blow.
But back to meat. It just seemed right for today's raw weather. I stopped into Stachowski's market at 28th and P and surveyed all the dead red animal flesh. I was drawn to the good-looking fresh ground steak burger meat and then drifted over to this odd looking wrapped package. Jamie Stachowski was at the counter and I asked, "what's that?" He explained it was what he'd made for his dinner last night: a duck breast wrapped in a chicken breast wrapped in bacon. Well, those of us who favor New Orleans know this is a homage to the TurDuckIn. He had some crazy name for it: ChickDuckOn. Close enough. But I was sold.
How did it work out? Well, I would like to go back to Jamie to discuss. He advised roasting at 325 for 20 minutes, but that barely cooked the outer layer. I kept returning it to the oven.In the end it took an hour for the chicken to be cooked and the duck to be rare. I am including a photo of the meat, fresh from the oven, but it doesn't do justice. It looks sort of messy, but that probably had more to do with my awkward plating. There was enough meat for two, potentially three.
With dinner I served an '09 Sonoma Coast pinot noir. It had everything needed to go up against the duck and the chicken and the bacon plus the brussels sprouts and wild mushrooms and wild rice. That menu was a tall order for a wine. The wine had to be able to slay all that flavor and protein.
Dessert? Not doing dessert much these days. But you never ever go wrong with chocolate. I indulged enough yesterday in my "hurricane" persuasions that there was no need for dessert tonight. Besides, we had such a good crisp apple with the dinner. And often a good cup of coffee can be dessert enough.
One last note: I tweeted today that people should go out and give business to the restaurants that are open in this nasty weather. And then I stayed home. I try always to practice what I preach, but then I did go out to Clyde's yesterday. It would be good this week if people think about their neighborhood restaurants. A storm like Sandy, any exteme weather, cuts into profits in a bad way. So, go vote for your fave by making a reservation, keeping it and ordering a good bottle of wine.
Also, very flattered that both Bourbon Steak and The Palm tried to woo my favors. Geez, they know I'm good to show up, but I did love the storm woo.
In dedicated pursuit of a totally chill Hurricane Sandy day away from the office, I convened with friends at Clyde's for a "hurricane lunch." From the looks of all the others who showed up we clearly weren't the only Georgetowners with this idea. With Nathans long closed, when it's weather I think "Clyde's." I'm of a generation that goes out when the wind blows or the snow falls. Maybe that's because I spent my formative years in Manhattan, or maybe because of sailing, but regardless: if it's safe,(and sometimes even if it is not) it's cool to go out and embrace the weather. Weather is one of the few elements we can experience that is timeless. Maybe that's why I've always loved sailing. It's timeless. Name the centurty and they had the same weather.
But back to today and lunch and drinking. After going out once in the morning and getting entirely soaked to the bone I pulled out my ancient foul weather gear and rallied some neighbors for another assault on what has been, so far, relatively moderate weather. At least in Georgetown. Winds gusting to maybe 20 at noon. That's not fierce weather.
Has anyone ever told you we widows stick together, especially when an ill wind blows? Well, we do. So Faya Causey (head of Academic Programs at the National Gallery of Art) and I made a plan to have a "hurricane lunch" at Clyde's and then we expanded it to include some actual married people, my good friends and across the street neighbors, Sam Harrington and Debbie Weil. Sam is an actual medical doctor and I have to commend him for keeping morning hours today, even though many patients canceled. Imagine if you were the patient who wanted to keep the appointment? Wouldn't you have been amazed and delighted that the doctor actually showed up? Exactly.
What did we have at Clyde's? Hmmm. To be honest, a few of us started with a bruised martini straight up with olives. Not the doctor, though. Sam and Debbie had grilled salmon, Faya had a huge and beautiful chopped salad, and I had steamed lobster, a deal at $18.
We sat in the bar. I always sit in the bar. Even though I met my husband in the back room at an after hours party I still prefer the bar. I remember coming to that bar at age 14 in my cheerleader's uniform after being on "It's Academic" at Channel 4. My best girlfriend and I went totally rogue -- or so we thought -- and escaped the bus home to Mount Vernon to go wander in Georgetown. It never even occurred to us that we would stand out as peculiar wearing those short little pleated skirts and cropped jumper tops. (Oh, the fantasies of a dozen horny men at the bar, right?)
What can I say at this point? Enjoy the storm to the extent that it's possible. Me? I wish I were on a mooring in a safe harbor. You've really never heard music until you've heard the sound of halyards slapping a mast.
Clyde's manager, Dave Delbene, said they would close at 5pm this evening. Not for lack of customers but because staff have no way to get to work with Metro shut down. I think we'll hear that same story throughout the area over this next 24-48 hours of storm drama.
This is a glass of Thibaut-Janisson sparkling wine, photographed Sunday in the cafe at Society Fair in Alexandria. You don't have to go out for a glass of bubbly, though. Stay in your jammies today and have a glass while sitting on the sofa, watching weather coverage, a movie or reading a good book.
If you venture out, by all means consult the list compiled by Washingtonian's Anna Spiegel of where to go for a "Dark and Stormy" cocktail. My personal storm fave is a Hot Buttered Rum. The secret is to muddle the brown sugar and butter in the mug with a dash of vanilla, then add boiling water, rum, and grate a little fresh nutmeg on top. I was introduced to this drink in the West Indies on the sailboat on which I was a deckhand. Any time we had squally weather, someone in the crew would prepare the Hot Buttered Rum drinks.
A lot of restaurants may not open today, but those that do open will welcome you. Imagine how hard it is for a restaurant to get customers in this kind of weather? If it's nearby and safe to get there, go out and buy a drink at your local pub - for fun and to give them support in the storm. Let the surburbanites buy three weeks worth of groceries for a 2-day storm. For those of us who are urban, city-living has its privileges.
Whenever I'm fortunate to be in Austin, and soon after I arrive, I hunt down a meal at one Mexcian or another -- Chuy's, Torchy's, La Condesa or Fonda San Miguel, to name only a small sample. Small because there's so much good Mexican food in Austin (good food in general, actually). But when I depart for home, for Washington, I always say, "at least we have Oyamel." That's because Oyamel comes as close to the real thing as anything we have in DC and possibly the Mid-Atlantic. Dinner tonight was another example of Oyamel getting it done.
A friend and I had dinner plans. After last night's incredible feast at "Chefs for Equality" my preference was something small and light. But since we share Austin as a passion it seemed only right to go to Oyamel. The drive across town in rush hour was a bitch matched only by the challenge to find parking, but once parked, once inside the restaurant, once in a booth, and with a Margarita in hand, all the stress slipped away. We were in an Austin kind of vibe. Of course we pigged out on salsa and chips and then the tableside guacamole -- extra spicy -- and a first course of ceviche. That was followed by black bean soup, grilled diver scallops, crisp pork belly tacos, chicken with green sauce and, one of my personal faves, the gazpacho salad. "This is so good," he said with each course. "I had no idea you could eat like this in Washington."
Along the way manager Michael Iglesias brought us a couple of tiny cocktails (really, in the prettiest little glasses) that he explained were Oaxaca Sours from their special "Day Of The Dead" menu, (and note, that "Day" is November 1). Floating in the foam on the top were tiny grasshoppers, which my friend crunched into with satisfaction. Call me a wimp. I just haven't gone there yet.
I don't know how we had room for dessert, but we managed to find that centimeter of our stomachs that still had breathing room. It helped a lot that both desserts, Dulche de Leche and Flan, were relatively light and freshed by fruit.
In reviewing my photos, all shot with the iPhone 4s, I was reminded of a woman who stopped me on the street one day. She said she is a regular reader of this blog, "but I miss your photos with the other camera." Well, I do, too, but it's tough to carry around the Canon, which I call "the big boy" for a reason. Still, the iPhone 4s flash never does justice to food. Please allow for what these photos lack. The food looked as beautiful as it tasted.
I did wear my Old Gringo's to dinner, but I didn't need to. Oyamel transported me to Austin (and Mexico) regardless, as it does with every meal.
NOTE: Other Mex I like - Bandolero in Georgetown (ask to sit by the window, where it's quieter and brighter); in Del Ray there are two, Los Tios Grill and Taqueria el Poblano; and recently at Rosa Mexicano near the Harman Center I had some very good guacamole and margaritas.
We posted this story today at Washingtonian.com. I wrote it after an afternoon visit with Tommy Jacomo at The Palm on 19th Street. We sat in a booth and he reminisced while I asked questions, listened and took notes. Here's the link: Tommy Jacomo Recalls 40 Years of The Palm.
This story was sentimental for me. I love the Palm. Because it's a cool place to have a meal but also because it has an interesting connection to my previous life and my late husband, Howard Joynt. His picture was up on the wall for years. When they made the movie "Heartburn," in a scene featuring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, his image was right between and behind them, and impossible to miss. It was before my time in his life. After all, he was holding a couple of baby bottles. (AKA, earlier marriages, earlier children). I asked Tommy whatever happened to that picture. He said, "we took down the wall." That's one way to let some wall people go.
A tip about The Palm. Always book one of the booths. That way you can hear whatever your date/friend/guest has to say.
Tonight was the annual gala of the Harman Center for the Arts, which includes a stage show and presentation of the "Will" Award. This year it went to Oscar-winning film and stage actor F. Murray Abraham. Monday galas aren't common in DC, but they also aren't unheard of. PEN/Faulkner also holds their gala on a Monday evening. Instead of cocktails they served wine, and so my date and I slipped over to Rosa Mexicano to Margaritas plus a bowl of quac. Delicious drinks and food and a moment to relax before back to work. Plus we were starving and new the program ahead would be 90 minutes long.
This was fun tonight. Very easy-going, the dinner especially. I talked to Murray Abraham twice and was impressed with the way he just zeroes in on you. NOTE TO WASHINGTON MEN: It's not bad to zero in on a woman! Michael Kahn is cool, too.
I also danced to the Motown spun by the deejay, but hoped he would segue into Gangnam Style. Maybe Monday isn't the night for Gangnam Style. Being a Monday it was totally okay to dance by myself. My "date," Shane Harris, remained at the table, locked in conversation with two Mary's - Mary Collins and Mary Haft. He was fine with my twirling on the dance floor. Shane is becoming quite the social varsity player. Every hostess is town should be clamoring for him, because both the men and the women love having him at the table. That's the ticket here. He's charming, funny, erudite and, most of all, smart and informed. And a gentleman. And wicked.
Speaking of charming and handsome, these two are Kevin Allen and Jeff Martin, they are professional photographers who work with me often. Kevin shot the story Saturday night at the National Italian American Foundation Dinner, and Jeff did tonight and also last week's winery dinner at RdV Vineyards. They are young, and very talented, smart, and good sports about putting up with me on social stories. I'm always, "come here, get this, see that, oh, there's the shot, quick over here, look it's them..." Thirty years as a television producer can make you bossy. They catch things, too, that I didn't see. We collaborate well. We've got each other's backs. Sometimes I miss shooting parties myself, but having Jeff or Kevin there, or James Brantley or Ben Droz, frees me up to talk to the guests, which I think makes the story better.
I wasn't the only solo dancer. It was that kind of night. People just took to the dance floor, grooved to the music, put Monday away. Heavy heavy Four Tops. We should get raves back in action here in DC, if they ever were here before. I remember them from San Francisco in the 70s. It was about dancing and music and endless but good.
When it comes to food I'm spoiled in a lot of ways. If I have an extra $10 in my pocket I know where to forage for something special, one of my professional beats is the social stream, where food is an essential component, I have friends who feed me, and when all else fails I like to cook and know how to make something out of nothing. In October, because of my job, there's a lot of going out to events, which means, more often than not, bland meals designed to meet a broad demographic. The caterers do their best but their mandate is to satisfy a modest palate. My palate is anything but modest. Come my occasional day to myself, I crave spice. (And movies, too. Today it was A+ Argo)
So, to the point of this post: how to make a great spicy grilled shrimp salad. It's so simple for those of us who live in DC, because we have so many handy and good markets. To start, buy however many LARGE fresh shrimp you require from your local fishmonger. I favor Cannons in Georgetown and Wagshal's in Spring Valley. I also like Blacksalt in The Palisades.The people behind the counter are not anonymous. We know each other. The service is specific, personal. The order in which I've written about them here, however, is the order in which I shop these fish markets. But then, everybody has something to offer (Blacksalt, for example, sells awesome Tomato Soup).
For this afternoon's Sunday supper the essential ingredients were spice, and that's where Wagshal's wins my taste heart. For the shrimp dish photographed above, I bought Waghsal's barbecue spice rub and, after cleaning the shrimp, massaged the spice into the meat and let it sit. When I tossed the Romaine I used Wagshal's spicy chipotle remoulade, which will have a use in my kitchen well beyond today's salad. I sauteed the shrimp in Wagshal's clarified butter -- which they always have in the market -- along with some diced red pepper. Voila. That was it. I added the shrimp and red pepper to the already tossed greens and crunched on top a handful of tortilla chips.
Ordinarly I might have paired the meal with a glass of white wine but today served water because earlier we had Manhattans, which I felt compelled to make because A) Argo, but B) because I'd bought some special marinated cherries and was eager to find out how they worked out (Yes, I know, the typical excuse of those who love Manhattans). With the Manhattans I served fresh hummus with breakfast radishes.
For dessert? A Redskins win, the best possible accompaniment to any Sunday suppper.
Last night at this evening hour I was at Mount Vernon, having a delicious steak dinner under a tent on George Washington's lawn, overlooking the Potomac River. We had just been entertained with the fireworks you see in the YouTube vid above, and we were also getting fairly nicely buzzed. There were multiple bars featuring all the best in commercial and craft spirits, because the evening was hosted by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, as well as President George Washington. The folks at DISCUS throw a party with an incredible array of booze. So, please take a moment to read my full report: The Spirit of Mount Vernon Dinner. And enjoy the fireworks, too.
As promised, here's the story I wrote today for The Washingtonian about the wine tasting supper at RdV Vineyards last evening in Delaplane, Virginia. It was splendid, compensating with good wine and food for the dreary weather and, sort of, the Redskins game, and the unsettling political season.
It was likely risking my life, but I drove out to Delaplane, Virginia this evening for a wine dinner at the RdV Vineyards. A risk because I kept switching radio stations between the Redskins and the Nationals, though - honestly - gave up on Redskins after RGIII's unfortunate concussion. Also, friends were texting me with updates on both games. I can assure you that since I was doing 70 on 66, I ignored the texts, but I knew what they were about: bad news/good news.
I'm not going to write a lot about the dinner here, because I wrote all about the details of the dinner on washingtonian.com. That's why I was out there, with photographer Jeff Martin. We have so much fun on these kinds of assignments. Jeff loves to photograph food, he likes the company of food industry people and foodies, and I love to write about events that combine great food and wine with social interaction...especially when they are different from the routine, and this was different. Eric Ziebold of CityZen, and his team, did the food, and winery owner Rutger de Vink was a magnanimous host. Outside it was a misty chilly October twilight, but inside was all warm and cozy and with incredible smells of good food and wine-making, and a roaring fire.
This week amounts to the play-offs not only of baseball but also of the fall social season. Practically every night has an A-list event. It will be a parade of the usual suspects but not without merit (here and there). Jeff and I have another cool dinner mid-week. You'll read about it, yes, on washingtonian.com. Wouldn't you know that's the same night as our first home playoff game for the Nationals. Once again I'll be tuned to the radio as I drive 30 miles out of town. But this particular dinner will be worth missing a night at Nats Park.
COOKING AN ERIC ZIEBOLD DINNER ON AN OUTDOOR GRILL
Due to my driving responsibilities I couldn't seriously indulge in all the wines that were offered at the dinner. Probably for the better. I did have a few sips, though, and I must say ... they were yummy. I'd been out to Linden Vineyards before on a story and it was good to see winemaker Jim Law again. The Riesling was one of his two contributions to the dinner. He doesn't consider it his most important wine, but he also makes one of the best roses I've ever tasted, and I'm a fiend for rose and I'm picky.
My colleague Todd Kliman, the restaurant critic for Washingtonian, wrote a good profile of de Vink. Do give it a read.
Here's a parting view of the lovely light and clouds that graced the Blue Ridge Mountains, as viewed from RdV Vineyards.
Society Fair is a market in Old Town Alexandria, but it's not just any market. It's the supremely creative invention of chef Cathal Armstrong and his wife, Meshelle. They also own the acclaimed Restaurant Eve. I was tipped off about Society Fair when it opened - about a year ago - by Anna Spiegel, one of our food writers at The Washingtonian. I checked it out immediately and have been returning regularly ever since. My reason this weekend was to get the fixings for Saturday night dinner. The boucherie part of the market prepares some of the most beautiful roasts to be found anywhere in the Metro area. Really, works of art made from beef, pork and lamb. I spotted a handsome rib roast and tournedos. But then ...
Over at the prepared foods I noticed a brown shopping bag that said "Date Night Bag." Here's what was in it in separate containers: Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts, Green Salad and dessert of Chocolate Pudding. Armstrong, who came from the kitchen bearing a tray of chicken pot pies, said the dinner bag also included a bottle of Malbec wine from Argentina. The price? $45. Sold! I also picked up a pint of Society Fair's excellent celery salad, some of which I later added to the green salad. I also like to mix the celery salad with pasta. And in the cheese department I got a wedge of firm goat's cheese to go with the Virginia apples I had at home. Dinner was complete.
Above is the salad and the meatloaf. I added sauteed mushrooms. It was a delicious dinner for two, but truthfully there was enough food for three people and possibly four. Below is a picture of the chocolate pudding. The whole meal was delicious. When it comes to weekend food, especially weekend entertaining, I'm a hunter-gatherer. I'll drive miles for one item that's made perfectly by a particular market, and I have favorite markets all over the place - in Annapolis, in Potomac, in Sangamore, off Spout Run, and various parts of DC.
Society Fair is easy to find. It's front door is on Washington Street in Old Town, next door to the Lyceum. Interestingly, the Lyceum is very connected to the Joynt family. My father and mother-in-law, Howard and May Joynt, did quite a lot to help support the restoration of the pre-Civil War building, which is now a history museum. It's where Mrs. Joynt's memorial service was held in 1996. They exhibited some of her remarkable collection of 18th Century American silver, which included pieces made by Paul Revere. The Joynt family manse was around the corner, at the intersection of Duke and St. Asaph Streets. It is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved 18th Century homes in Alexandria, with original floors and mouldings and a garden designed by the landscape architect of Colonial Williamsburg. The house was sold after Mrs. Joynt's death. Mr. Joynt died in 1989. They would have liked Society Fair.
So, this Date Night Bag, with the "grab and go dinner for 2," worked out well. I had seen this same idea offered by a market in Austin, Texas, and thought what a great idea. Especially when it's done well. There's much more to choose form at this market: eye-catching desserts, including miles high frosted layer cake, excellent cookies; fresh juices, fresh cocktail mixes from Todd Thrasher, salad dressings, cold salads, and a sandwich menu that makes one want to live on sandwiches alone. I'm eager for the short ribs sandwich to return for the cold weather months. There's wine, coffee, pasta, condiments ... and also a bar and dining room. Basically, it's all there. Go. You'll thank me.
The Q&A Cafe interview with Christopher Kennedy Lawford will air on Friday May 17 at 8 pm on DCN, channel 16. We discuss his life, his addictions, his recovery and it's all good. Please tune in.
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