➔ QUESTIONS? TO REACH JOHN MARIANI
➔ ARCHIVE: Readers
may now access
Archive of all past newsletters--each annotated--dating back to July,
2003, by simply clicking on www.johnmariani.com/archive
➔ SUBSCRIBE AND
UN-SUBSCRIBE: You may subscribe anyone you wish
to this newsletter--free of charge--by
DINING OUT IN DC
by John Mariani
NEW YORK CORNER:
adour ALAIN DUCASSE NY
and Christopher Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Robert Oatley Does It Again by Mort Hochstein
DINING OUT IN DC
Capital city dining has very little to do with politics, now that our highly lobbied legislators are not supposed to accept so much as a slice of pizza from vested interests. But the restaurants are full, and new ones pop up all the time. Here are some of the best of the current crop.
1100 New York Avenue
Ten years ago the idea of an Indian restaurateur, even one as accomplished as Ashok Bajaj, opening a ristorante in Washington would have made Italophiles wince. For however high Bajaj’s expertise at running superb power haunts like the Oval Room and one of America’s finest Indian restaurants, Rasika, the effrontery would have been difficult to blunt. Now, with greater access to great Italian ingredients and a chef named Nicholas Stefanelli who’s worked with Roberto Donna at Galileo in DC and Fiamma in New York, the chances were good that they could pull off something creditable.
Italian restaurant to open in the capital in years, as true
as it is stylish all on its own, with huge mural photos of Roman icons,
the Coliseum to a vintage Vespa. Indeed, Bibiana gives the lie to
those stuffed shirts who continue to contend that there is no authentic
cucina italiana in America. What fools! They should be so lucky as to dine at Bibiana.
constant care, and that’s what Stefanelli delivers,
it’s the grilled Mediterranean sardines with peperonata
and breadcrumbs, the cavatelli pasta made with burnt wheat
called grano arso, with fennel
sausage, broccoli di rabe, and chili, or the gently steamed cod with
onion compote.Canaroli risotto, gently cooked to a light creaminess,
comes with taleggio cheese,
green apple, and apple salad, while agnolotti
are packed with ricotta,
a tangy lemon, marjoram and spinach.
1099 New York Avenue, NW
I won't even attempt pronouncing Againn, which is Gaelic for "with us" and sounds nothing like it looks. It's an odd name really for a modern British pub of a kind I wish they had more of in the UK, where pubs have generally languished for decades serving the same dreary food. Exec Chef Wesley Morton will have none of that, and you'd never mistake this handsome 5,600 square-foot, 140-seat restaurant features and 19-seat bar--there are also 130 private Scotch lockers you can reserve per year for $500--and patio seating for 20.
The black-and-white interior draws on a few traditional decorous touches--dark paneling, roomy booths, tilework, raw bar--with neat additions like faux fox heads in shadowboxes.
The menu will not disappoint anyone looking for traditional pub fare, but at Againn it's all done with Morton's flare, from cured Lock Duart salmon salad served with fennel, watercress and pumpernickel; to a hearty shepherd’s pie; House-made corned beef comes with an assertive with horseradish crème, brown bread and pickles, and the Scottish Highland beef burger comes on house-made bun with caramelized onions, farmstead Cheddar and chips; with malt vinegar. Of course, there's bangers and mash, done in a very rich, dark gravy atop buttered mashed potatoes (left). I love the idea of starting off with a "pint of prawns" and the charcuterie is gutsy. No pub is complete with fish and chips and the ale-battered fish fingers with English egg sauce are first rate here, certainly the best in town. Somebody's "Grandmother's Roast Chicken" is here with root vegetables and bacon, along with braised Shenandoah shoulder of lamb, and a roast of the day.
For dessert a modern sticky toffee pudding is served with toffee sauce and stout ice cream, and there's and chocolate Cambridge cream pecan shortbread, jam cookie and ginger snap.
In every case there is a decided tilt to the best American ingredients to buoy the British dishes, and that's not only reasonable but improves the quality of such dishes immensely. Againn is a very likable place to hang out, have a beer, down some oysters, or have a full meal, and it's got expansionism written all over it if it clicks in DC.
Againn is open for lunch Mon.-Fri., for dinner Mon.-Sat. Starters run $6 to $15, entrees $22-$32 at dinner.
1527 17th Street, NW
Washington has no lack of Middle Eastern-style restaurants, from cheap eateries like Cafe Diwan to Meze in Dupont Circle and Zikrayet in Alexandria. Agora focuses more specifically on the savory food of Turkey, via chef
a good proportion of its offerings cooked over a wood-fired
in most restaurants of this kind, you should get together a gang of
four or more, order anything and everything on the mezes menu and have
a ball. At Agora that means exotic cheeses like kasar, helim,tulum; stuffed eggplant with onions
and tomatoes; grilled octopus with capers, olive oil, lemon, and
vinegar; mucver zucchini
pancakes; crispy phyllo borek
rolls with goat's cheese;
and much more. Hpiti
(below) is a dreamy blend of
roasted peppers, thyme, and olive oil. "Chef’s
Borek" is a phyllo roll with goat's cheese, herbs, and crushed peppers.
Crispy phyllo roll, goat cheese with savory herb and crushed peppers A simple mash of fava bean with olive oil is cause for celebration of wholesome goodness.Seafood items include pan=seared brook trout with black olives; turbot simply brushed with lemon and honey and seasoned with oregano; and dorade with grilled lemon. Then there are the meat dishes, like charbroiled grilled lamb and spicy chicken wings in the Turkish style. I love the manti--Turkish ravioli stuffed with beef in a red pepper and lush garlic-yogurt sauce.
To scoop it all up there are those steamy, smoky breads like peynirli pide stuffed with feta and kasa cheese and lamacun topped with ground meats, tomato and parsley. Sukulu pide is topped with spicy sausage.
Desserts are not nearly as sweet as they too often are in the Middle East.
Twenty wines by the glass are offered (ranging from $5 to $20)., with others by the ¼ liter, ½ liter , along with Mediterranean beers and Turkish ouzo.
be quite happy and quite full, depending
on how much you order or can stop yourself from ordering. And
with low prices here, you can order a lot and get out feeling light in
Agora is open for lunch Mon.-Fri., brunch Sat. & Sun., and for dinner nightly. Prices range from $5 to $13.
6825 Redmond Drive
to say that a chef,
Italian chef, cooks "con amore,"
do is meet Beatrice Zelaya (below),
McLean, VA, and you'll feel that this is as
true and authentic a way to describe her cooking as could be. Her
maternal heart and soul are in all that she does, and while her English
is weak, her heart and spirit are very strong. Nothing makes her
happier than to see her guests well fed.
writes on Capri's website. "In 1976,
I was lucky and fortunate to be part of a well-known restaurant, Romeo
& Juliet on DC's K Street--fortunate because I worked with
incredible people such as Mrs. Juliet, the heart of the kitchen in
those days. Also Roberto Donna and Savino Recino in the prime of their
careers. And Mr. Romeo Salta from the famous Romeo Salta restaurant in
Manhattan. In addition, I was part of the opening of Galileo and Primi
Piatti restaurants in DC, the leading Italian restaurants of the 80's
& 90's. Eventually, I went to Potomac to
take over Renato restaurant, which has become a landmark today. Now I
happy to announce that I am at Capri in McLean."
no doubt, for she is from a
long line of classic Italian cooks, and the discipline and attention
to detail shows in everything she sends from the kitchen, beginning
with antipasti like her
eggplant parmigiana, rich with tomato and
mozzarella, and her mussels cooked in a light and spicy fra diavolo
sauce, with toasted Italian bread. A simple salad of arugula comes
with goat's cheese, walnuts, and cherry tomatoes, dressed with the best
virgin olive oil and a squirt of lemon for acid.
adour ALAIN DUCASSE NY
2 East 55th Street (near Fifth Avenue)
This is still a high-cost night
out, but when you consider that a dinner
of crabmeat cocktail, NY strip steak, creamed spinach, onion rings,
and shipped-in cheesecake at any of NYC's top steak houses can easily
$90-$95, and you start to
realize that AADNY makes a lot of sense.
food full of finesse but perhaps with a little bit more brio than might
be found in Paris. Thus, you might begin with a pasta, not quite an
Italian one, but delicious housemade pasta swathed in sea urchins,
fennel and a creamy uni sauce.
lobster--surf-and-turf soul mates--come in a delicate feuilleté with a poached egg
and mushroom duxelle. Lobster also shares its cocotte with roasted artichokes,
truffle sauce, and maltagliati pasta
lobster rendering with a coconut-curry
court-bouillon, which further indicates the globalization of French
For the lighter side,
the Alaskan King crab with a celery root rémoulade, citrus and
scent of basil, and for the vegetarian (for whom they offer a 5-course
tasting menu at $85), autumn vegetables as carpaccio, with a black
truffle vinaigrette. The diver
sea scallops are generous in portion,
three sweet scallops, coated by an aromatic black truffle condiment and
and garnished with artichoke. Sea bass (left) comes with seasonal
vegetables and a rich matelote sauce of seafood and red wine.
veal chop here is a magnificent cut of
meat, served on the bone, tender, full of flavor, and sided by crispy
fingerling potatoes and braised lettuce. Roasted
saddle of lamb, from Niman Ranch, comes with
a light vegetable fricassée, navarin,
creamy quinoa. Quality of ingredients need never be in question
desserts, pastry chef Sandro Micheli, here since the opening,
wonderful job of combing beautiful presentations with flavors to match,
including the honey-pear composition served with homemade caramel ice
and the dark chocolate sorbet dessert topped with coffee granite and
Ducasse's interest are worldwide--there is another Adour in Washington, DC, too--and some are haute cuisine restaurants while others are auberges and swanky Vegas nightclub/dining rooms. But he knows that a restaurant with his name on it in NYC is crucial to his reputation, and his staking it on Didier Elena shows that he is making a real mark of excellence. Smartly, he is also keeping the price tag in line with the current economies of scale.
MAN ABOUT TOWN
by Christopher Mariani
4525 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach305-674-5594
Photos by Brett Hufziger
During my stay in Miami, after a lengthy cocktail party fueled with minimal hors d’oeuvres, I was in need a wholesome meal and so decided on 1500 Degrees inside the Eden Roc Renaissance Hotel on Miami Beach. My decision was based on a previous meeting, months prior, with executive chef Paula DaSilva (below), who cooked alongside host chef Dean Max of 3030 Ocean in Fort Lauderdale at a James Beard Dinner. It was apparent at the JB dinner and re-affirmed in Miami that DaSilva, a truly gifted, young culinary talent, exudes enthusiasm and passion for her food and cooking. 1500 Degrees, DaSilva’s first restaurant, is run independently from Max's DJM Culinary, Inc., and although she showcases similar cooking styles to his, she clearly displays the distinction of her own innovations.
interior of the
restaurant is impressive, relatively large in size, seating close
guests, with elegant cream-colored chairs and tables, a gorgeous
that looks out at the hotel’s patio, and a terrific bar where I dined
that evening. It was not only the
notable design of the restaurant that grabbed my instant attention, it
the service staff’s full understanding of what it takes to flourish in
the hospitality industry. The
staff was attentive,
knowledgeable, and most of all friendly, a trait that works well in
vibrant atmosphere. But even on trendy
Miami Beach, no
survives without good food, and thankfully DaSilva is an imaginative
produces great food. Here
are some of DaSilva’s do-not-miss items.
For starters, order from the raw bar; DaSilva has obviously hooked up with some of the best seafood purveyors, and it shows. The Kumomoto oysters are delicious, served with a tarragon mignonette; the ceviche is a mixture of Florida hog snapper, cilantro, chopped peppers, and lime juice, and a plate of stone crab claws, my first and, I hope, not last taste of the season. DaSilva also puts together a wonderful tuna tartare mixed with an avocado mash, baby radishes and a yuzu sauce. The pork belly tacos placed inside a crispy wonton and topped with a creamy lime and cilantro aioli instantly brought me back to my recent trip to Colombia where I ate chicharrons any chance I got. I must return for 1500's steaks, which includes USDA Prime cuts cooked, appropriate to the restaurant's name, at 1500 degrees Fº, but I did order the fried snapper with Thai chili sauce, and what a smart decision that was! Dessert was skipped that evening, only because I was beckoned by the Miami nightlife, so I cannot report.
DaSilva and cast are doing a terrific
job for such a new restaurant and seem to have already found their
quality most restaurants take months to find, if ever.
☛ Here's a tidbit of information for Dallas readers: Chef Dean Max will be opening his newest restaurant in early January, inside the Renaissance Hotel just outside of the downtown area, serving a farm-to-table cuisine, focusing around a mesquite grill that will be producing a modern interpretation of both Mexican and Texas dishes, not to be mistaken for Tex-Mex. The official name of the restaurant has not been decided upon, but do keep your eyes pealed for chef Max’s new restaurant.
To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to email@example.com
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
LOVELIER THE SECOND TIME AROUND
There’s an aphorism you hear frequently about the wine industry. It goes this way: “If you want to make a small fortune in the wine business, start with a large one.”
Luckily, that particular fate seems never to have befallen Robert Oatley (left), an Australian entrepreneur who has put his Midas touch on coffee and cocoa plantations in New Guinea, vineyards and wineries, cattle stations, thoroughbred horses, an entire island devoted to luxury tourism on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, well as competitive yacht racing, the sport of the wealthy. His Wild Oats XI super maxi yacht holds a record of four consecutive wins in Australia’s famed Sidney to Hobart race.
After two successful decades of coffee and cocoa trading in Southeast Asia, Oatley returned to his native Australia to start a second career as a winemaker. In 1969, he planted vines in the Hunter Valley north of Sidney, founding Rosemount Estate, and brought in his first harvest in 1974.
Two years later Oatley enlisted Chris Hancock, who had been an executive for Penfold, where he produced some of the great Penfold Grange wines of the seventies. Hancock came aboard as a winemaker for a short while, but soon applied his skills to marketing and helped make Rosemount an Australian icon, familiar to wine buyers on several continents.
Oakley’s marching orders to Hancock and the winemakers who served under him were simple, Hancock recalled recently. “Bob would make these lip-smacking sounds. He’d say ‘Chris, that’s what it has to taste like --like you want some more.'” It was a formula that worked. Oakley’s success in those years was comparable to today’s Australian phenomenon, Yellow Tail. Rosemount however, successfully targeted more affluent and more wine-knowledgeable consumers.
By the early 1980’s Rosemount wines defined the robust, fruit-forward style that other Australian winemakers were quick to emulate. The brand was available almost worldwide and was featured on notable restaurant wine lists. In 2002, Oatley found it hard to say no to the Australian corporate giant, Southcorp, and sold out –for more than a small fortune---at a time when Rosemount was producing more than four million cases of wine annually.
He retained ownership of several choice vineyards and also acquired additional properties in the Mudgee region (below) of New South Wales where his latest venture is based. In 2006, at 80, Oatley returned to winemaking, luring Hancock out of semi-retirement for a new start.
In their second coming, they are building the Robert Oatley brand with a near-term goal of 60,000 cases, and an eventual output projected at nearly three times that figure. “Bob (Oatley) is still making the kind of wine that calls for more than one glass,” Hancock said recently, “but it’s more in line with today’s cuisine and tastes. The new wines are basically lower in alcohol, and rich in texture with an emphasis on flavor.”
While he and Oatley have turned
the winemaking over to younger hands, they supervise production and
much hands-on at headquarters in the Mudgee. Hancock, still piling up
miles, was in New York shortly before Thanksgiving where he led us through a tasting of several
Robert Oatley labels.
I’ve never been a fan of Riesling, but the 2010 Oatley Great Southern from Western Australia is a mind changer. Most Rieslings seem to require a lot of investigation in an often disappointing effort to find why people revere the varietal. The Oatley version, however, is memorably outgoing from its start, projecting an ethereal perfume that alerts the senses and signals the graceful wine that follows, lively, firm and concentrated with a good mineral backbone and a long finish. It’s a wine that does not overpower or dull the palate, and certainly demands a second and a third tasting.
The 2010 Gewürztraminer that followed was on the same high level, without the profusion of sweet, pineapple scents and flavors usually associated with this sibling to Riesling. From mature vines and fermented to a pleasant dryness, it showed pure fruit character on the nose, lychee most notably, followed by crispness and balance not usually achieved in wines made from this finicky grape.
The same firm characteristics prevailed in the crisp, fresh, lemon and lime flavors of an ’09 Chardonnay from Mudgee. We also tasted a lush, black-fruit flavored Cabernet Sauvignon and a fragrant, delicate and charming Pinot Noir which ranked with the Riesling as my two favorites in the group. The reds sell at $30 and the whites at $25. Other Oatley labels, just beginning to arrive on American shores, carry suggested retail prices ranging from $15 to $19.
THE JOY OF
The Darden Restaurants chain has sued T.G.I. Friday's for advertising "never ending shrimp" specials, because Darden claims its Olive Garden "never ending pasta bowl" and Red Lobster's "endless shrimp" are trademarks. Earlier Darden won a settlement from IHOP for serving "never ending pancakes" and "never ending popcorn shrimp."
ST. LUKE THE BARTENDER
✉ 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
Dec. 1 - 9 in NYC,
chef Bill Telepan will serve specialty latkes at his
Upper West Side restaurant
in celebration of Hanukkah, with house-made apple sauce and sour cream
($10) or with smoked
salmon ($16). Guests can call in their order for pickup.
* On Dec 7 in Astoria, Queens, 5 Napkin Burger will host a beer dinner featuring beers from Avery Brewing. The evening will begin at 7:30pm with an informal reception followed by dinner at 8pm all prepared by Executive Chef Andy D’Amico who has created a beer friendly menu to be paired with each course; $45 plus tax and gratuity pp, inc. hors d’oeuvre reception, appetizer, entrée, and samples of 5 different beers; email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-433-2727.
Dec. 8, The Portage in Chicago will host an exclusive
Brasserie Du Bocq and St. Sylvestre
Brewery Dinner. $35 pp. Call 773-853-0779 or visit theportagechicago.com.
From Jan. – April 2011, Cap Maison and its Cliff
Cap restaurant in St. Lucia,
will host a Guest Chef Series,
from U.S. resorts.Rates start at $435, incl. full breakfast. The
3-course dinner menu is $75 pp. Call 888-765-4985 or visit
* From Jan. 5 - 9, Grand Velas Riviera Maya is hosting the 2011 Food Blogger Camp, incl. one-on-one "speed blogging" meetings, blog critiques, photography breakout sessions, culinary demos and tastings, a food styling workshop, and seminars on brand and business building. Rates start at $1200 for media and $1,340 for non-media. Call 1-866-230-7221 or visit www.velasresorts.com/files/foodbloggercamp/index.html.
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: WORLD'S WORST TARMAC DELAYS
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).
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 Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist, BusinessWeek.com; email@example.com; www.nickonwine.com.
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani, 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.
Any of John Mariani's books below
may be ordered from amazon.com by clicking on the cover image.