Good news for the District dining scene: Two DC restaurants are nominees on Bon Appétit’s 50 Best New Restaurants list. The national roundup of “trendsetting” eateries will be narrowed down come August 14 to the Hot 10 list and BA Foodist Andrew Knowlton’s pick for the best new restaurant in America.
Without further ado, the two Washington contenders are Daikaya’s split-level ramen shop and izakaya, and Frederik de Pue’s European-inspired Shaw spot, Table. The first mini review for Daikaya starts with the usual backhanded compliment to the Washington food scene. (“If you think DC’s dining scene begins and ends with men in suits power-lunching . . .”) Still, Knowlton finds plenty to praise at both restaurants, including the barley-miso ramen and beef tongue yakitori from chef Katsuya Fukushima’s kitchen, and the Fracophile fare in an “über-stylish” setting at Table, such as bouillabaisse and duck rillettes.
The Bon Appétit nominations are one of many national accolades for Washington restaurants of late. Esquire included six Washington bars on its Best Bars in America list; Mintwood Place landed among Condé Nast Traveler’s Best New Restaurants 2013; and GQ food writer Alan Richman named several local dishes in his 50 Best Things to Eat and Drink Right Now roundup. Stay tuned to find out whether our top two eateries make it into the finals next week.
This month, GQ food writer Alan Richman shared 50 Best Things to Eat and Drink Right Now—a nation-spanning survey of deliciousness, and a pretty great read at that. Along the way he predicts trends for the coming year (look forward to more buttermilk, house-made vinegar, and abalone), defends truffle oil, and imagines a world in which every hotel stocks “dark-magic McMuffins.”
He also gives a nod to some Washington establishments. At Bryan Voltaggio’s Family Meal, Richman enjoyed some chicken pot pie fritters—“five little fried balls, each a tad larger than a Titleist.” He recognizes the Ramos gin fizz at Barmini. To be celebrated for your Ramos, a notoriously labor-intensive cocktail, is a badge of honor among bartenders, so props to Juan Coronado on that one. And over at Rasika West End, Vikram Sunderam is slaying it in the butternut-squash samosa department, per Richman.
Click through the slideshow and marvel at how much grub Richman must gullet in a given year.
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Earlier this month, Publisher’s Marketplace reported a forthcoming cookbook from the owners of Luke’s Lobster—the New York-based seafood spot with three locations in Washington (in Penn Quarter, Georgetown, and Bethesda). We caught up with Ben Conniff, who co-owns the chain with Maine native and Georgetown grad Luke Holden, to get the details on the forthcoming tome, The Luke’s Lobster Cookbook: Real Food From the Heart of Maine.
How long has the book been in the works?
Just about three years now. It’s been a long process from getting the idea to making it a reality.
What prompted you to write one?
Since we’ve opened, we’ve always thought the rest of the world deserved a better idea of what Maine food is really about. I think when DownEast Magazine named us the Best Maine Food Ambassador Outside of Maine in 2010, we thought, “That really distills exactly what we want to be.” And writing a cookbook is a way that we can do that even better.
Is it all recipes, or a mixture of recipes and stories?
It’s a mixture. So much of every meal is about your scenery and the people around you, and Maine has some of the most unique and inspiring cooks out there. Their stories are as fascinating as their recipes.
Where does the content come from? Family? Restaurants?
A mixture. We’ll include recipes from Luke’s, from our families and friends, and from chefs, home cooks, farmers, and all manner of folks making food all over the state.
What other cookbooks were you inspired by?
So many. In particular, those that have a firm sense of place, people, and story and a dedication to natural, local ingredients. Hugh Acheson’s A New Turn in the South comes to mind. The Frankies Spuntino [Kitchen Companion]. The River Cottage Fish Book. Also great food writing that’s not recipe-related, like Calvin Trillin, Bill Buford, and E.B. White, a great Maine writer himself.
When do you expect it to come out?
You Are What You Eat
As if the coming wave of girl-friendly steakhouses and sports bars wasn’t ridiculous enough, here comes “brogurt”—fat-free Greek yogurt for ab-obsessed dudes who couldn’t possibly be seen housing a tub of Fage. [Grub Street] —Ann Limpert
Perfect for Washington’s political climate, here’s a partisan rundown of food preferences. No surprise that Dems like KFC better than “hate chicken” (a.k.a. Chick-fil-A). Republicans, apparently, like doughnuts. [Eater National] —Anna Spiegel
Finally, some good news: HuffPo ranks hot sauces based on how often they appear on menus and in recipes, and how popular they are. Better news: Four of the top five are in my pantry at home. [Huffington Post] —Sophie Gilbert
What fracking is doing to our food. [The Nation] —Todd Kliman
Village Voice Media sells off SF Weekly and Seattle Weekly—pubs with two of the most on-point food writers in the country, Anna Roth and Hanna Raskin—to Black Press entities. [Romenesko] —Jessica Voelker
Meanwhile, here in Washington, the Post nixes the food blog All We Can Eat. Look for food coverage to continue on Going Out Gurus. [WP] —JV
Yo, all you tatted, bicep-flexing chefs who congratulate yourselves for studding your menus with so many offal-y dishes: Get a load at what an offal-laden meal in Japan looks like.[Foodsaketokyo] —TK
McDonald’s pizza in Italy? This may be the worst thing we’ve inflicted on the mother country since the Olive Garden set up that culinary school. [Reuters] —JV
South Carolina restaurant Taco Cid’s employee uniforms are in terrible taste—both for their racist message and for that horrible clashy orange. [Grub Street] —Tanya Pai
Guy and Gordon
Marilyn Hagerty, of Olive Garden viral review fame, doesn’t see the point of Pete Wells’s takedown of Guy Fieri’s new restaurant. “What is the point of tearing down a restaurant. Could there be some pluses and minuses? If it’s no good at all, why bother reviewing it?” [Gawker] —Sophie Gilbert
Hannah Goldfield and Amelia Lester of the New Yorker pay a visit to Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar in Times Square to see whether it’s really as bad as Pete Wells said. [New Yorker] —Todd Kliman
This week in shameless rip-offs, Gordon Ramsay attempts to name a British restaurant the Spotted Pig. Mario Batali, whose West Village Spotted Pig is an NYC institution, isn’t thrilled. This pig is causing some beef, yo. [HuffPo] —SG
It’s been quite a week for Washington dining and drinking spots in the national press. Esquire just posted its annual roundup of Best New Restaurants. Sadly there’s not a single DC eatery among the top 15 (Bon Appétit disagrees), but one well-known face made the list: Roberto Donna, who clinched Chef of the Year for his recent reemergence at Al Dente (formerly La Forchetta) in Upper Northwest.
Critic John Mariani notes in his writeup that Donna, “despite being one of America’s greatest chefs . . . had a habit of leaving restaurants before the paint dried.” There’s no mention of why Donna departed said restaurants (multiple lawsuits, perhaps?), among them the original Galileo that put him—and high-end Italian food in Washington—on the map, Bebo Trattoria, and Galileo III. Maybe Al Dente is the official new era that Donna has been striving for. Mariana marvels that “he’s cooking his pants off, serving dishes so deceptively simple they seem like sleight of hand.”
Check out the issue when it hits on the stands on October 16 for a “classic” recipe from the Italian toque.
If there’s a national restaurant list on which Washington should shine, a collection of “best power meals in America” seems like the one. Esquire recently herded up its favorite eating establishments for conducting business, and two District dining spots made the cut.
The New York Times travel series “36 Hours in . . .” this week focused on Baltimore, and included a few food picks.
In the fresh crab realm, author Charly Wilder calls out L.P. Steamers, a “purist’s crab house” where an upper deck offers the opportunity to “watch the sun set over one of Baltimore’s best views.” For greasy spoons, Wilder offers up Michael Phelps favorite Pete’s Grille, “a grits-and-grease diner in a rundown neighborhood.” Milk & Honey Market gets a shout-out as a good snack spot near the Mount Vernon Place Conservatory. Corner BYOB is called out as the most exciting restaurant in the northwest neighborhood of Hampden, where chef Bernard Dehaene “dabbles in exotic beasts like kangaroo.” In the “comfort brunch” category, Wilder suggests heading to Clementine in Hamilton, located along “once-depressed Harford Road.” He also mentions the owners’ Green Onion Market.
The new reality show Life After Top Chef airs this October on Bravo, and local burger and pizza maven Spike Mendelsohn will be among the former cheftestants featured—the show will tape Mendelsohn as he works on, among other projects, his new Capitol Hill steak-frites concept, Bearnaise. Press materials for the program set up the tension between the fedora-wearing cook and his “food industry family,” with whom he works closely: “This carefree and brilliant chef struggles with his strong desire to venture on his own while avoiding ruffling feathers with the Mendelsohn clan.” Also featured on the show is Atlanta-based Top Chef All-Stars contestant Richard Blais, “badass” Jen Carroll in Philadelphia, and “fan favorite” Fabio Viviani in Los Angeles.