The tail end of winter is tough for cooking. Lingering cold demands comfort food, but we’re feeling bogged down after all those bowls of chili and mac and cheese. A perfect compromise: this spicy fish curry from Rasika toque Vikram Sunderam. The robust flavors prove filling, but fresh fish makes for a lighter meal. The reader who requested the recipe referred to it as “transcendent.”
“The curry, oh goodness, the curry,” writes the reader after sampling it as a Restaurant Week special. “I wanted to drink it, I wanted to bathe in it, I wanted to be it. Such amazing depth and strength—the bright acid of tomatoes, a hint of chili and cumin—while managing to not overwhelm the fish. . . . If you could see about getting a recipe, I would be forever in your debt.”
Hard to argue with that! Note that you’ll need fresh or previously frozen curry leaves for the recipe, which can be found at Indian grocery stores, such as Ginger & Spice Market in Alexandria.
Kerala Fish Curry
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup chopped Spanish onion
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
3 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
1 cup water
1½ cups chopped plum tomatoes
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 sprig fresh curry leaves, available at Indian groceries
30 ounces coconut milk
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
4 skinless filets of grouper or halibut, about two pounds
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Cut the grouper filets into smaller pieces (about 2 ounces each) and set aside.
Set a small pan over medium heat and dry-roast the spices for about 2 to 3 minutes, until aromatic. Grind the toasted spices in a coffee grinder. (Powdered spices may be substituted, but don’t roast them.)
Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté until golden brown.
Blend the ginger and garlic with the cup of water, and add the paste to the onions. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes over medium heat, until the raw flavor is gone.
Add the chopped tomatoes along with the turmeric powder and cook until the tomatoes are softened, about 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the curry leaves along with the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Lower the curry to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add the roasted or powdered spices, and then the fish. Cook until the fish is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Season with salt and garnish with cilantro.
Serve with steamed basmati rice.
James Beard Award-winning chef RJ Cooper has a reputation for pushing boundaries: At his Rogue 24 in DC’s Shaw neighborhood, diners choose between 16- and 24-course tasting menus. Next up: Gypsy Soul, a casual ode to regional dining in Merrifield with a sprawling rooftop grill. We caught up over raw carrots—Cooper is currently dieting—and talked about tattoos, bourbon, and his pet corgi.
Energy source: “It used to be Red Bull with chocolate. Now it’s coffee.”
Bourbon: “Black Maple Hill from Kentucky. It’s not Pappy Van Winkle, so it’s affordable, and it’s just as good.”
Restaurant: “My favorite super-fine dining is the Inn at Little Washington. It’s a very magical, Disney World place. Also magical: Lafayette Coney Island in Detroit.”
Takeout: “I have a soft spot for really bad Chinese food—greasy, starchy almond chicken from any place I can find on my phone.”
Currently craving . . . “I’m on a diet. I haven’t had chocolate in seven weeks. The kitchen crew used to eat a two-pound bag of almond M&M’s every day.”
Ice-cream flavor: “Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby, man—c’mon.”
Day trip: “A motorcycle trip through the George Washington National Forest.”
Tattoo: “I have so many! My Rogue tattoo means a lot to me because I got it three days before my open-heart surgery.”
Always in the home fridge: “Soy milk, so many berries, and a bunch of protein drinks.”
Pet: “Rebecca the Corgi Princess of McLean. She’s 11.”
Breakfast dish: “I haven’t eaten it since I started my diet, but I really like the quiche at Baked & Wired in Georgetown.”
Healthy snack: “A protein shake and raw carrots.”
Fast food: “Wendy’s triple burger with lettuce, tomato, onions, bacon, and fried onion rings on top, all crushed down.”
Four people I’d like to invite to dinner: “Brad Pitt, Woody Harrelson, Jerry Garcia, and Jerry Seinfeld. I’d serve pot brownies. “
Condiment: “If I’m at Daikaya, I like togarashi spice on everything. If it’s a burger, Thousand Island dressing. For French fries, mayonnaise.”
Restaurant music: “When we’re working, it’s whoever gets to the radio first. I’m a big jam-band guy and will put on the Dead, and everyone else is like, ‘Arrrrrrgh.’ ”
Restaurant I’d like to open: “The first chef-driven biker bar. It would have rock ’n’ roll, stripper poles, Miller High Life, and lots of smoked meats.”
Artists: “Warhol. I love the depth and energy, the wackiness. I love Dalí, and I really want to know what drugs he was on.”
This article appears in the March 2014 issue of Washingtonian.
Happy Friday, food truck followers! Celebrate the end of the week by heading out for boar and three-pork meatballs at Ball or Nothing and a rare roast beef sandwich au jus with provolone from Corned Beef King.
Few Washington restaurants are as iconic as Ben’s Chili Bowl, which opened on U Street in 1958. Founders Ben and Virginia Ali served their now-famous chili half-smokes through the race riots in the 1960s and during the Metro buildout that closed U Street, to presidents and policemen alike. Ben passed away in 2009, but Virginia still helps operate the restaurant, along with her sons, who are helping to expand the Ben’s name across the Potomac. The first standalone branch opens at 1725 Wilson Boulevard on Thursday (outposts already exist at FedEx Field and Nationals Stadium), with more to come in the next year.
“It’s a lovely area and a wonderful community,” says Virginia. “We want to become a part of that community like we have on U Street.”
The new Ben’s occupies one of the spaces in Colonial Village Shopping Center that once housed Ray’s Hell-Burger. While it’s not an exact replica of the original, key features carry over. A jukebox stands ready for dinner music, and the brothers built a counter so customers can mingle as they do on U Street. New to the eatery is outside seating, with 16 spots on the patio for chowing down on chili cheese fries in warmer weather. The brothers also teamed with local bakery Savannah Cupcake for a line of cupcakes, including flavors such as carrot, coconut-pineapple, and sweet potato pie.
The Arlington debut marks the beginning of a growth year for Ben’s, with an H Street spot expected to open later this year and another stadium-like kiosk planned for Reagan National Airport. Nizam Ali says Ben’s Next Door, the more upscale eatery adjoining the Chili Bowl, is also set for expansion, albeit a vertical one: A rooftop deck is on the horizon, with the working name Ben’s Upstairs. A couple of staples will carry over (or up), but Nizam says the family is “looking to do a whole new thing.”
Longtime Ben’s fan Bill Cosby helped welcome the Arlington location, cutting the ribbon at the opening ceremony. Considering all the celebrity endorsements and accolades the Chili Bowl has received over the years, from a James Beard Award to a visit from President Obama, we asked Virginia what she considers the greatest achievement.
“What floored me most was when we celebrated our 40-year anniversary,” she says. “It was just overwhelming for me to see people standing in line on a hot August day to come into Ben’s and buy a chili dog. I felt so overwhelmed that people cared enough. Somehow people know we care about them, and they care about us, and that’s very gratifying.”
Ben’s Chili Bowl. 1725 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. Current hours are 11 to 11. Breakfast coming soon.
Respected food magazine gives up, launches short-form website with market-tested name and section heads like “OMG Yummy!” and “I’d Eat That.” TL;DR: Food & Wine creates website for millennials. [FWx] —Benjamin Freed
There’s actually a machine that turns water into wine. [Huffington Post] —Chris Campbell
Mooovin’ and Shakin’
You should probably watch this GIF of cows jumping for joy when they’re released into a field every day, for inspiration. Such joie de vivre! [NPR] —Sophie Gilbert
Eat Your Age
Because we as a society refuse to grow up, Oscar Mayer gives us Lunchables for adults. [Food Beast] —CC
This Maryland man has eaten nothing but cheese pizza for the past 25 years. Remarkably, he seems okay. [Huffington Post] —SG
Olive Garden has a new logo, which makes it look slightly less like a chain restaurant and slightly more like a data processing company. Nice “healthy” subtext, though. [Eater National] —SG
Sorry, Europe, but if it looks like Brie, smells like Brie, and tastes like Brie, I’m not sure what else to call it. [NPR] —CC
The ’90s Called . . .
Trying to stave off the urge to snack? Play Tetris! [Grub Street] —BF
MTV has a food-themed reality show in the works, and it’s kind of like when trainee chefs stop being polite and start being real. [Hollywood Reporter] —SG
Missing your favorite Russian beer at Domku? Blame Vladimir Putin. The Eastern European restaurant restaurant in Petworth took its Russian brews off the menu in support of Ukraine and in protest of Putin’s invasion of Crimea. [Washington Post] —BF
Only in the Big Apple
A former New York City cop has opened a police-themed bar, including a cop car, a precinct desk, and a jail cell. The ex-officer wants it to be the “Disneyland” of police, which I guess has been missing from Times Square? [DNA Info] —BF
Pete Wells takes a look at the ramen scene in New York. Even if you’re not planning to slurp noodles in the Big Apple, there’s some handy advice for ramen-hunters in the there. [New York Times] —AS
Red Hen extends its hours
1822 First St., NW; 202-525-3021
Love this Bloomingdale neighborhood Italian? Now you can dine there more. The restaurant extends its hours to include Monday dinner service from 5:30 to 10, starting Monday, March 10. Keep a lookout for new spring dishes such as ricotta cavatelli with peas.
Republic gets late-night menus and live music
6939 Laurel Ave., Takoma Park; 301-270-3000
Jeff Black gets into the entertainment game, hiring 9:30 Club vet Catherine Rytkonen to schedule bands, open-mike nights, and Monday blues sessions. The lineup starts on Sunday with a “Democracy party,” featuring themed cocktails, snacks, and even local politicians. Chef Danny Wells launches a late-night menu to pair with the festivities, with eats like a duck confit Cuban.
Ben’s Chili Bowl opens in Arlington
1725 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
The historic U Street eatery debuts its first standalone sister eatery in more than 55 years on Thursday. Catch Bill Cosby, a loyal Ben’s customer, at the 10:30 opening ceremony, and stick around for those famous chili half-smokes.
Alba Osteria launches a “chef bar”
425 Eye St., NW; 202-733-4454
Chef Amy Brandwein has been working on tasting menus inspired by Italian street food and other rustic fare, and will start cooking at the new reservation-only “chef bar” for just ten guests on Thursday, March 13. The six-course meal and beverage pairing, available every Thursday, includes dishes such as crunchy anchovies, sea-urchin tagliolini, and venison with foie gras and cherries ($80 per person). Look for a vegetarian option in the near future.
P.J. Clarke’s begins bottomless brunch
1600 K St., NW; 202-463-6610
Go bottomless on K Street at this New York import’s new brunch on Saturday and Sunday, which includes never-ending Bloodys, mimosas, and more ($20 per person) alongside eats like Grand Marnier-spiked French toast, an egg-white-avocado breakfast sandwich, and five different Benedicts.
Martini Madness takes over Bethesda Row
The eateries along Bethesda Row launch a monthlong March competition to make the best martini. Try all ten—conveniently available at happy hour prices—and vote for your favorite.
La Tagliatella introduces $5 lunch
2950 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington; 571-257-4600
The chain celebrates its US arrival this month with 30 days of dining deals, including a $5 lunch menu this week. Look for other specials such as $5 pizzas next week and half-price bottles of wine starting March 17.
It’s time to concede defeat on that New Year’s resolution—Girl Scout cookies are back.
Sales got off to a rough start this year, with the mid-February snowstorm delaying cookie shipment to the Washington area, but local Girl Scout troops are quickly making up for lost time at booths in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Now through March 30, you can stock up on Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs, and more at $4 a box.
Below are the official locations for cookie booth sales in the Washington metro area. To find out when troops are selling near you, search your location using the Girl Scouts’ cookie locator or mobile app.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Benning Road NE
H & R Block, 1555 Maryland Ave., NE
Safeway, 6500 Piney Branch Rd., NW
Walmart, 5929 Georgia Ave., NW
Pilgrim Baptist Church, 700 I St., NE
H & R Block, 3337 Connecticut Ave., NW
Giant Food, 1345 Park Rd., NW
Shrine of the Sacred Heart, 3211 Sacred Heart Way, NW
H & R Block, 617 Pennsylvania Ave., SE
Labyrinth, 645 Pennsylvania Ave., SE
Port City Java, 701 North Carolina Ave., SE
Christ Church, 620 G St., SE
Jetties, 1609 Foxhall Rd., NW
Our Lady of Victory Church, 4755 Whitehaven Pkwy., NW
Safeway, 1855 Wisconsin Ave., NW
Saxby’s Coffee, 3500 O St., NW
Walmart, 99 H St., NW
Giant, 300 H St., NE
Ace Hardware, 1240 Upshur St., NW
Rhode Island Ave
H & R Block, 624 Rhode Island Ave., NE
Crate & Barrel, 4820 Massachusetts Ave., NW
H & R Block, 4727 Wisconsin Ave., NW
Pete’s Apizza, 4940 Wisconsin Ave., NW
H & R Block, 1250 U St., NW
Ballston Metro Station, 901 N. Stuart St.
Kettlers Capital Iceplex, 627 N. Glebe Rd.
H & R Block, 4238 Wilson Blvd.
The Madison at Ballston, 4401 N. Fourth St.
Whitlow’s on Wilson, 2854 Wilson Blvd.
Courthouse Metro Station, 2100 Wilson Blvd.
H & R Block, 2111 Wilson Blvd.
East Falls Church Metro Station, 2001 N. Sycamore St.
Giant Food, 3480 S. Jefferson St.
Safeway, 5821 Crossroads Circle
Fort Myer Post Exchange, 523 Carpenter Rd.
Giant Food, 2501 S. Ninth Rd.
H & R Block, 2607 Columbia Pike
Pentagon City Metro Station, 1200 S. Hayes St.
Pentagon City Mall, 1201 S. Hayes St.
Meridian at Pentagon, 1221 S. Eads St.
H & R Block, 1235 S. Clark St.
Crystal City Metro Station, 1200 S. Hayes St.
Safeway, 1525 Wilson Blvd.
Rosslyn Metro Station, 1850 N. Moore St.
Giant Food, 3450 Washington Blvd.
Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy St.
St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, 3304 Washington Blvd.
Other Virginia Locations
Safeway, 2500 N. Harrison St.
Giant Food, 3115 Lee Hwy.
Marymount University Lee Center, 2807 N. Glebe Rd.
Westover Market, 5863 Washington Blvd.
Safeway, 3717 Lee Hwy.
Greenbrier Baptist Church, 5401 S. Seventh Rd.
Goodwill Industries, S. Ten Glebe Rd.
Mt. Zion Baptist Church, 3500 19th St. S.
Chevy Chase Supermarket, 8531 Connecticut Ave.
Child’s Play, 5536 Connecticut Ave., NW
Blessed Sacrament Church, 3630 Quesada St., NW
Broad Branch Market, 5608 Broad Branch Rd., NW
Shoppers, 2201 Randolph Rd.
Safeway, 10101 New Hampshire Ave.
CVS, 3715 University Blvd. W.
Safeway, 10541 Connecticut Ave.
Baskin Robbins, 10592 Metropolitan Ave.
Hardware City, 10504 Connecticut Ave.
AC Moore, 12013 Rockville Pike
Giant Food, 12051 Rockville Pike
Safeway, 5200 Randolph Rd.
Safeway, 1902 Veirs Mill Rd.
Michaels, 1509 Rockville Pike
REI, 1701 Rockville Pike
Giant Food, 1280 East-West Hwy.
Giant Food, 8750 Arliss St.
Forest Glen Commissary, 2460 Linden La.
Parkway Deli, 8317 Grubb Rd.
Safeway, 909 Thayer Ave.
Daily Dish, 8301 Grubb Rd.
Giant Food, 2900 University Blvd. W.
Safeway, 11201 Georgia Ave.
Safeway, 116 University Blvd. W.
Adams Morgan has seen a decent amount of restaurant movement lately, what with the looming exit of stalwarts like Mixtec and Pasta Mia and the opening of new spots such as Roofers Union. Next to join the new arrivals is Rebellion DC, a self-described neighborhood spot opening on the border of AdMo and Dupont at 1826 18th Street, Northwest. The address most recently housed pan-Asian eatery Mum Mum, formerly called Zabb Modern Asian.
The name of the bar stems from the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791, which pitted farmer-distillers against the government after treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton introduced a tax on farms producing whiskey from excess grain and corn. Naturally, the bar will sport the namesake spirit; a Facebook page for the watering hole details plans to stock more than 50 varieties. Though the bar’s claim to be “second to none in the Dupont Circle neighborhood” for its brown liquor collection is dubious (um, Jack Rose?), the goal seems to be for more of an “everyday public house” feel than a whiskey mecca. To that effect you’ll find American tavern decor, Southern-inspired comfort fare, and a rooftop patio for sipping drinks in warmer weather. Stay tuned for more details and a possible spring opening.