➜ QUESTIONS? TO REACH JOHN MARIANI
DINING, Part One by John Mariani
MICHELIN AND MIELE GUIDES PUBLISHED TO NYC AND ASIA
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Champagne, Part 2 by Brian Freedman
CAPITAL DINING, Part One
by John Mariani
DC Dining seems to have gotten something of a lift since Mr & Mrs Obama and their daughters have come to town, especially since their Presidential predecessor rarely ate outside the White House. The hurrahs went up in DC's restaurant community when, five days before taking office, Obama celebrated his wife Michelle’s 45th birthday at Equinox, a fine dining establishment two blocks from the White House. Since then he’s also visited Ben’s Chili Bowl (left) and Michelle ate with Joe and Jill Biden at the southern food restaurant Georgia Brown’s and at Five Guys Burgers and Fries in Dupont Circle with her daughters—Secret Service, as ever, in tow—where she happily tablehopped to say hello to patrons. And the Prez has taken the First Lady to some fine dining spots in New York, too. Simply by going out to eat now and then, the Obamas are sending a message that a little indulgence is a very good stimulus for the body and soul.
Here are some of the current fine restaurants sure to benefit from the boost.
Nobody’s likely to
Blue Ridge restaurant, set on a drab stretch of Washington’s Glover
Park, as a high-minded mission statement. It’s just a couple of
ordinary rooms with a bar and country furniture and some antique quilts
on the wall. You can sit out back and just nurse a beer and eat
nuts. Owners Eli Hengst and Jared Rager don 't want fussy,
they want fine, and they want you to go out feeling good. Chef Barton
Seaver’s cooking even tastes
You get a choice of country hams—aged 16 or 14 months in eco-friendly
farms in Kentucky, Sweet Grass Dairy’s Thomasville tomme cheese from
Georgia; a perfect chicken pot pie with hot rosemary-flecked biscuits
and root vegetables; sweet potato fritters with honey-mustard; grilled
okra with sour cream sauce; cracklins made with smoked ham. The
hot shrimp dip with smoked paprika
and grilled bread is addictive, and I've never had better trout,
carefully grilled, with a root vegetable puree and citrus-pecan-brown
butter. Seaver is adept at using sweet flavors tamed by acids like
citrus, and even his lush blueberry pie is not off-the-charts sweet as
so many Southern desserts can be.
JM: Are we over-fishing?
Seaver: First of all, fish is a misnomer. When it’s in water it’s a fish, but when it meets up with a human being it becomes seafood. As a chef I don’t live under water like Cousteau. I’m working as a consultant for the National Geographic Society, advising them about seafood, not fish. I believe there should be corporate social responsibility towards seafood as a resource. If frying seafood gets you to eat it, so be it. It’s basically good for you and better than eating so much meat protein. Little by little, though, I want to move people to broil the seafood or roast it or grill it, make it taste great with butter and herbs.
JM: So you’re not advocating a restrictive diet.
Seaver: Not at all. Obviously a dish can never be better than the ingredients it starts with. But if you want to change the world it’s not through a farmers’ market; you do it through Wal-Mart. You change people at the grocery store. We need to put the training wheels on people there and educate them.
Green Giant and big food corporations actually deserve a lot of credit for feeding a lot of people, but a lot of what they’ve done has been in their own self-interest, at a cost in quality and taste. This is not about feeding masses of people. It’s about how we begin to feed ourselves. The way Americans eat is at the center of the plate. So, restaurants stress the protein. People read menus left to right, with the protein first; I read menus right to left. Once you train yourself to change the plate to emphasize more delicious vegetables, that’s when you change some of the problems with our dwindling resources.
JM: I assume, then, you are not a big fan of the TV cooks who stress the proteins, the fat, and the sugar. Are you the anti-Paula Deen?
Seaver: Most of the people on TV, like Deen, are selling entertainment, not sustenance. I actually think that Rachael Ray is doing more than anyone since Julia Child because she’s getting women to go back to the grocery store and buy fresh ingredients. She’s ubiquitous and she’s convincing people it’s fun to cook.
JM: So how would you describe your own cooking at Blue Ridge?
Seaver: It’s my sensibility projected onto Southern Regionalism. When we called Col. Bill Newsome’s ham company [in Kentucky], he put us in touch with his artisan neighbors, so we bought all his neighbor’s grits--90 pounds--to last us till next summer. Grits are seasonal, you understand? So when I cook it’s my choreography, my explorations. But I stay out of the way of the ingredients; I don’t want to change them from their natural essence.
Esquire: Which is pretty much the opposite of molecular cuisine that deliberately manipulates ingredients?
Seaver: I find molecular cuisine fascinating, but I don’t know many people who have walked away from those restaurants and want to go back tomorrow night. Food is a need; molecular cuisine is awesome but it, too, is entertainment. The issue is that the idea becomes about the dish itself and lacks real context.
Blue Ridge's appetizers run $6-$15, main courses $12-$21. The restaurant is open for lunch Mon.-Fri., for brunch Sat. & Sun., and for dinner nightly.
2800 Pennsylvania Ave NW
new steakhouse, the fourth under the Michael Mina
restaurant umbrella group, has been a big hit since opening earlier
this year in Georgetown’s Four Seasons Hotel. By managing to mix
traditional masculine cast of dark wood and stitched leather, and a
lounge with the feminine touch of romantic lighting and cozy alcoves,
Bourbon Steak has attracted former Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev on the
same night, along with Brad Pitt, Michael Douglas, and Catherine
Zeta-Jones on others.
11960 Democracy Drive
Reston Town Center
Passion Food Hospitality, owned by Chef Jeff Tunks, Gus Dimillo, and David Wizenberg, run some of the DC area's best and most excitingly themed restaurant, including Ten Penh (Asian), Acadiana (Louisiana), and DC Coast. Their newest, and one of the biggest, is something of a trek from downtown, about 40 minutes away in Reston, Virginia, set within an office building--not the most propitious location for a restaurant of PassionFish's ambitions.
The place has immense dazzle, from a grand chilled seafood station in the center of the main dining room with a “floating” glass staircase, floor-to-ceiling windows, big roomy booths, and banquet rooms of varying sizes. It is thoroughly modern and the name of the restaurant fits it well, since Jeff Tunks's passion for the best seafood has never been better on display, here in the hands of Chef Christopher Clime, a Virginian with long ties to Passion Food Hospitality.
The menu is as vast as the restaurant, which gives a lot of room for error when offering scores and scores of raw and cooked dishes. And, aside from the pristine sushi and sashimi overseen by Chef No Won Park (don't miss the kamikaze roll), this is not simple cooking, and you can see how it derives from the long-term refinement of the restaurant group's' previous efforts, so there is a lot of Asian, some Caribbean, a little Mexican, and some Pacific Rim thrown in.
Grilled baby octopus gains from sharing the plate with a Greek salad, warn halloumi cheese, and creamy tzatsiki. Steamed mussels Veracruz get a tomato sofrito treatment with capers, olives, and jalapeño, cooked in beer. A red Thai curry lobster claypot is a signature dish here, with sweet golden pineapple, kaffir lime, and aromatic jasmine rice. Ivory salmon--a wonderful species--is glazed with an ancho honey and sided with a shrimp-goat's cheese chile relleno and sweet corn masa. If you want to go simply, they serve 8 seafood items cooked on the griddle.
Desserts are actually in the same generous league, like a first-rate Key lime meringue tart with white chocolate chip ice cream, mango, and pineapple, and a strawberry-rhubarb crisp with toffee lace tuile and ice cream.
If you're visiting DC and have the time and wheels, PassionFish is well worth the gas; if you live nearby, you are very lucky indeed to have a place of this caliber.
PassionFish is open for lunch Mon.-Fri., and dinner Mon.-Sat. At dinner appetizers run $8-$12 (sushi individually priced), and entrees $22-$32. They offer a 2-course lunch for $15.
Next Week, Part Two
★★★ NEW MICHELIN, MIELE
GUIDES RATINGS ★★★
by John Mariani
Guides, Guides! They keep
on coming, and this month sees the appearance of two more: The Michelin
Guide to New York 2010
(5th Edition, $17.99) and the Miele
Guide to Asia (2nd edition, $15).
The Miele Guide,
curiously enough also with a red cover, is sponsored by an appliance
group and is
now in its second annual edition, and was, according to its intro, "created
in 2008 in order to better recognize and celebrate Asia’s
best chefs and restaurants. . . . In
some ways, the economic situation is making the restaurant scene in
Asia more interesting to watch, and more dynamic, than ever.”
Although from the prices at Miele's top pick, you'd never know there
was a global recession going on.
Top 20 restaurants 2009/2010 in Asia
comparison of both the Miele
guide and Michelin's to Tokyo
shows amazing disparities. Except for a single exception, not one of
Miele's top 10 restaurants is Asian, which sounds odd indeed, and
the only place in Japan to make the Top 20 is L’Atelier de Joël
Robuchon in Tokyo. Miele’s best Japanese eatery is Hong Kong's Nobu,
which is an American offshoot. This conflicts almost
entirely with the Michelin
Tokyo 2009 selection, which
includes 9 restaurants with three stars, 36 with two stars, and 128
with one star. Michelin awards its top 3-star ratings to Hamadaya,
Ishikawa, Joël Robuchon, Kanda, Koju, L'Osier, Quintessence,
Sukiyabashi Jiro, Sushi Mizutani--none, except Robuchon, makes Miele's list.
Its Fizzy Varieties, Part Two
the course of my recent visit to
Champagne, it became apparent that, overall, a highly critical eye is
being trained on the vineyards themselves, and on the methods used to
raise the grapes to maturity. Hardly a visit went by without mention of
some environmentally friendly farming method or another, from organics
and biodynamics to sustainability and beyond.
READ PART ONE OF THIS ARTICLE, CLICK
☛ Brian Freedman is a food and wine writer, wine educator, and food and wine consultant. He is Director of Wine Education for the Wine School of Philadelphia, contributing editor for Philadelphia Style Magazine, wine columnist for Affluent Magazine, and writes the blog www.UncorkLife.com for www.WineChateau.com. His web site is www.BrianFreedmanPhiladelphia.com.
IF YOU DRINK A LITTLE MORE YOU'LL PROBABLY
FIND THE KITCHEN SINK
IN THERE TOO.
“Powerful, muscular, well-textured, and invigorating. Even within the realm of Ardberg, this one stands out. The more aggressive notes of coal, tar, damp kiln, anise, and smoked seaweed are supported by an array of fruit (black raspberry, black cherry, plum), dark chocolate, espresso, molasses, bacon fat, kalamata olive, and warming cinnamon on the finish. Quite-stunning!”—John Hansell, “Ardberg Correction," Malt Advocate “ (Fall 2009).
✉ Guidelines for submissions: QUICK BYTES publishes only events, special dinners, etc, open to the public, not restaurant openings or personnel changes. When submitting please send the most pertinent info, incl. tel # and site, in one short paragraph as simple e-mail text, WITH DATE LISTED FIRST, as below. Thanks. John Mariani
* On Oct. 19 in Redondo Beach, CA, Hudson House welcomes Maui Brewing
Co. for a 4-course dinner $45 pp. plus tax and gratuity. Call
* On Oct. 20 in NYC,
The Sea Grill at
Rockefeller Center will host wine authority W.R. Tish for a 4-course
Côtes du Rhône wine dinner. $95 pp. Call 212-332-7610 or
* Until Dec. 23 in London,
at Mimosa Bar & Restaurant you
can enjoy 3 meals and receive a complimentary day at The Peak Health
Club & Spa, located in the heart of Belgravia. Call 020 7858 7223,
or visit www.mimosa.co.uk.
* From now until Oct. 31 in NYC, Fabio Piccolo Fiore will offer its wine lovers menu, starting with the wine, and then building a menu to complement it. The menu features 4 different wines, a simple menu of appetizers, entrees and a dessert, with flavors and ingredients that pair nicely with each wine. $45 pp. Call 212-922-0581. www.fabiopiccolofiore.com.
* On Oct.
23 Le Château in South Salem, NY, will
hold a 5-course wine tasting dinner by
Executive chef Andre Molle with
Maison Louis Latour, the producer of some of the finest Burgundian
wines. $95 pp. Call 914-533-6631, www.lechateauny.com.
* On Oct. 23 & 24 in Menlo Park, CA, Chef Guillaume Bienaimé and Chocolatier Michael Recchiuti will offer a special 5-course menu at Marché Restaurant highlighting the cocoa bean. $65 pp. Call 650-324-9092 or visit www.restaurantmarche.com.
* On Oct. 25 at Cavallo
Point Lodge in Marin, CA,
Marin Organic will host its annual fund-raising event, “Tuscany Meets
Marin,” a celebration of the region’s agricultural bounty and
book-signing reception for Douglas Gayeton’s Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town.
Special guest Dario Cecchini, master butcher from Italy,
joins Executive Chef Joseph Humphrey to create the evening’s
dinner. Also, an art exhibition and auction. $250 pp. Call 415-663-9667
or email email@example.com.
* On Oct. 26, at Birchwood
Kitchen in Chicago,
a farm to table themed dinner will benefit the Chicago Rarities Orchard
Project. The BYOB apple-centric dinner, prepared by Chef Jason Ball.
$50 pp and can be purchased online at www.chicagorarities.org or by
Oct. 30, Vermont estate winemakers will speak about the
future of Vermont wine at a dinner at Hemingway’s
Restaurant in Killington,
VT. Three Vermont winemakers will speak about integrity in
wine labeling. Details at
www.hemingwaysrestaurant.com; Call 802-422-3886.
On Oct. 31 in NYC, Le Souk Harem will host an Arabian
Halloween party featuring a full Arabian circus and cocktails served in
pumpkins all night. There will be no cover charge. www.lesoukharem.com.
* On Oct. 31, in New
Haven, CT, Votto Vines Importing presents an "Italian
Heritage Month Food & Wine Festival" at the Omni Hotel at Yale University
featuring Italian food, wine and culture. $30 pp. Visit
* From Nov. 1-Dec. 3, The Ahwahnee in Yosemite National Park, CA, hosts the 28th annual Vintners’ Holidays. Over the course of 8 sessions, 32 prominent California winemakers join to celebrate with tastings, seminars, a “Meet the Vintners” reception and a 5-course dinner from Chef Percy Whatley. Two- and three-night packages available at The Ahwahnee and Yosemite Lodge at the Falls. Call 801-559-4949 or visit ww.YosemitePark.com/Vintners.
* Throughout November, Lark
Creek Restaurant Group holds its annual “Gingerbread
Wishes” event to benefit the Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish
Foundation®. Each restaurant will offer a star-shaped gingerbread
cookie for $10 with a decorating kit, with the
$10 donated. Participating restaurants incl. The Tavern at Lark
Creek in Larkspur (415-924-7766);
One Market Restaurant (415-777-5577)
and LarkCreekSteak (415-593-4100) in San Francisco; Lark Creek Walnut
Creek (925-256-1234); and Yankee Pier in Larkspur (415-924-7676),
Lafayette (925-283-4100) and at Santana Row in San Jose (408-244-1244).
November 2, Blackfish BYOB in Conshohocken, PA, will host
guest chefs, Alex Talbot and Aki Kamozawa from "Ideas In Food" ; 7
courses for $85 . . .On Dec. 7, Blackfish BYOB will host Top
Chef’s Jennifer Carroll of Eric Ripert’s 10 Arts Restaurant. 7 courses
for $85 pp. Call 610-397-0888.
* On Nov.
4 in Laguna Beach, CA, Sapphire Laguna throws a Local Farms
Harvest Dinner Party with guests Evan Marks, founder and exec. director
of The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano, and Tim Hussman, pres. of
Newport Meat Company. Local products and purveyors will be featured on
Chef Azmin Ghahreman’s 3-course dinner menu. $65 pp. Call 949-715-9888.
* On Nov.
4 in NYC, Restaurant Daniel will hold a
"Fête de Burgundy" dinner of new releases and special older
vintages from the next generation of great Burgundian winemakers, incl.
Pierre-Yves Colin, David Duband, and Domaine de LArlot. $295 pp. Call
On Nov. 4 in Seattle,
Spanish Chef Joseba Jiménez de Jiménez, of
Harvest Vine and Txori, teams up with Olivar's
chef Philippe Thomelin, who was born in France and trained in Spain, to
create a 6-course dinner. $60. Call 206-322-0409
Nov. 4-Dec. 15 in NYC Mr Chow celebrates their 30th
anniversary by offering a complimentary bottle of Laurent Perrier
Rosé champagne to each table. Call 212-751-9030; www.mrchow.com.
Everett Potter's Travel Report:
I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences." THIS WEEK: BERMUDA CRUISIN'; OFFBEAT PENNSYLVANIA; SMART DEALS IN JACKSON HOLE; 5 QUESTIONS YOU MUST ASK BEFORE YOUR NEXT ADVENTURE.
Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contributor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio. He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at KNPR.org. Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.
Tennis Resorts Online: A Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991).
Family Travel Forum (FTF), whose motto is "Have Kids, Still Travel!",
is dedicated to the ideals, promotion and support of travel with
children. Founded by business professionals John Manton and Kyle
McCarthy with first class travel industry credentials and global family
travel experience, the independent, family-supported FTF will provide
its members with honest, unbiased information, informed advice and
practical tips; all designed to make traveling a rewarding, healthy,
safe, better value and hassle-free experience for adults and children
who journey together. Membership in FTF will lead you to new worlds of
adventure, fun and learning. Join the movement.
nickonwine: An engaging, interactive wine column by Niclk Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist, BusinessWeek.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.nickonwine.com.
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani, John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Suzanne Wright, and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery, Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.
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