Tom Sietsema’s Spring Dining Guide has arrived. The WaPo critic has great things to say about new chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley at Ripple (where, psst, brunch debuts on Sunday) and bestows 2.5 stars on Wit & Wisdom. Lauriol Plaza, on the other hand, proves fodder for a panning. [WaPo]
Let’s just call this the 14th Street spring. In the past two weeks we’ve seen B Too, Ghibellina, Black Whiskey, BakeHouse, and Taqueria Nacional open their doors, with many more on the way. The latest is Etto, a collaboration between Amy Morgan and Peter Pastan of 2 Amys and David Rosner and Tad Curtz of the Standard.
Curtz worked at 2 Amys for more than four years, during which time he and Pastan envisioned a restaurant where they’d like to be regulars (though if it draws the crowds of either owner’s other eatery, snagging a table could be tough). The 42-seat space already has the feel of a true neighborhood spot, albeit a neighborhood in Naples. Ceiling fans turn slowly above wooden tables Curtz fashioned out of Douglas fir, and a large haunch of 24-month aged prosciutto di Parma rests behind the bar waiting to be cut. The standing-room-only area may be the best place to work up an appetite, thanks to house-cured salamis dangling from shelves and stacks of fresh bread baked in the pizza oven that day.
The “house-made” label takes on a different meaning with the breads and pizzas (view the menu here). The team procured a grain mill that sits in the back of the dining room and is used to make all the flour for the doughs. While you won’t find the same Neapolitan DOC-certified pies served at 2 Amys, you can still order a simple thin-crust margherita that gets a slight char from the wood-burning oven. Heartier combinations include rapini and freshly made sausage or cotechino—a type of slow-cooked charcuterie—with fontina cheese and a runny egg. True to traditional Italian pizza-making, there’s no design-your-own option.
On the drinking side of things, vermouth is also made on the premises. Fans of the fortified wine can sip citrusy, dry white or sweeter red vermouth, or order a Negroni made with the latter and Green Hat gin. Start with a cocktail and a plate, or namesake etto, of salumi (an “etto” is 100 grams in Italian, roughly a quarter pound). Salads such as grilled eggplant and cauliflower with saffron and pine nuts could work as starters or sides; the “fishies” section serves anchovies, one of Pastan’s favorite foods, three ways: in citrusy salsa verde, with orange salad, and Gilda Radner-style, a play on the Spanish “gilda” tapa with anchovy, olive, and pickle.
Desserts are less pungent but no less fun. Finish up with Morgan’s homemade ice cream, which receives a light salt kick from prosciutto and candied pistachios, or “chocolate salami”: a tubular cocoa treat that’s studded with nougat to replicate fat, tied like a sausage, and dusted with powdered sugar.
Michael Landrum’s ongoing issues with Ray’s Hell-Burger aside, fast-casual burger chains are the business to beat in Washington. The most American of foods may also be one of the most profitable—making moguls out of Top Chef vets, Food Network stars, and more than one young go-getter with a novel approach.
With all the homegrown chains and farther-flung imports, it’s nearly impossible to keep track of their comings and goings. To clarify the matter, we created this list of hamburger restaurants, including Washington-born companies that are expanding, out-of-town ventures that have announced plans to move in here, and a few one-shop entities that—rumor has it—are looking to grow.
Homegrown—and still growing
Based in: Bethesda
Claim to fame: On our Cheap Eats list since 2009, BGR has garnered national attention from the likes of the Travel Channel and Food Network for its 9 Pounder burger topped with two heads of lettuce, eight tomatoes, three red onions, and four whole pickles. Clean your plate in one sitting, and it’s on the house. (The order comes with bottle of Maalox.)
Number of Washington-area locations: 12
Total number of locations: 20, spread across California, Georgia, Florida, New York, South Carolina, and Tennessee, with a new store opening in Connecticut soon.
Plans to expand: Founder Mark Bucher says he is always on the lookout in proven retail success neighborhoods such as Shaw, Capitol Hill, Chevy Chase, and Rockville.
Some bakers find inspiration in their grandmother’s kitchen. For husband-and-wife team Niall Cooper and Lindsey Morse, it was a remote station in Antarctica. The two met in Cooper’s native Scotland, and moved to the South Pole for a job he took at a museum soon after.
“We had a lot of dry goods and very few fresh ingredients,” says Cooper. “Making nice baked goods was one of the few pleasures you could have.”
The couple’s love of crafting cookies and tarts continued even after escaping those freezing climes, and their years of research and testing recipes culminated in BakeHouse, which opened on Wednesday. It’s a sliver of a shop, with only 14 seats and an additional eight on the outdoor patio, but feels inviting with light streaming in through the floor-to-ceiling front window and crisp white surfaces. (That exposed brick is actually exposed brick wallpaper. What’ll they think of next?) If you land a seat, wi-fi is also available.
Mornings at BakeHouse are all about freshly roasted coffee from Baltimore producer Zeke’s and a number of breakfast options. House-made English muffin sandwiches come stacked with combinations such as bacon, eggs, Gruyère, and honey or a lighter riff with egg whites, roasted peppers, spinach, and feta. No time for a hot breakfast? Grab a biscuit studded with sausage and cheddar cheese, or Greek yogurt topped with house-made granola and strawberry-balsamic coulis. Lunchtime brings more sandwiches: either warm panini stuffed with roasted eggplant, red pepper, and goat cheese, or cold options such as red curry chicken salad with arugula on Lyon Bakery whole grain. You might throw in a pasta salad or save room for one of the many cookies and cupcakes or a dark chocolate brownie. The bakery stays open after dinner.
Cooper’s Scottish heritage inspired the bakery’s emphasis on loose-leaf teas by the cup or pot—and afternoon tea on the patio might involve a trio of mini tarts in flavors like spicy chocolate, bourbon-vanilla, and salted caramel. Just know that you might be sharing the outdoor space with a few dogs—Cooper and Morse not only welcome them, they spoil them with house-made peanut butter treats.
BakeHouse. 1407 T St., NW; 202-299-9042. Open Monday through Thursday 7 AM to 9 PM, Friday 7 AM to 11 PM, Saturday 8 AM to 11 PM, and Sunday 8 AM to 9 PM.
Walk into Black Whiskey, and it’s not hard to tell that co-owner Darren Lee Norris is from Brooklyn. The stylishly industrial space could as easily fit in around Green Point as on 14th Street. That’s also true of the concept: a mixed-use bar that combines an event venue, British-inspired carvery, and an unpretentious place to throw back a few bourbons. Here’s what to expect from the latest spot by the Kushi owners.
During a Mother’s Day stop by the Inn at Little Washington, we saw a packed restaurant and a hardy staff working to keep up with the record numbers this occasion always brings to the restaurant business. But we also learned a bit of interesting news: The morel season in Rappahannock County, Virginia, is the best it has ever been, according to the inn’s chef/owner, Patrick O’Connell. To prove his point he emerged from the kitchen bearing a basket overloaded with morels. Then, in a second appearance, he came out with “ringmaster” (his actual title) Chris Castle and executive sous chef Evan Parker—all three men were holding large trays of morels. “These are just what came in today,” Castle said. “All kinds of hippies are coming to the back door,” selling what they’d pulled from the fertile ground.
On the spot, O’Connell said he was making it Morel Week at the inn for as long as the crop remains bountiful. He’s created new dishes to showcase the ingredient, including osso buco ravioli with local morels and fava beans in a consommé perfumed with cognac, and fricassee of potato gnocchi with wild morels, asparagus, and slivers of Virginia country ham. Overnight guests can have morels in their breakfast omelet, if they wish.
Last year, New York-based chef Michael White announced plans to bring a near-replica of his popular Soho Italian restaurant, Osteria Morini, to the developing Lumber Shed pavilion at Yards Park. Now the real estate development shared news on its Facebook page that a second concept from White’s Altamarea Group, Nicoletta Pizzeria, will debut in the park’s seasonal stalls.
A representative from Altamarea confirmed that the menu will be very similar to the one at the original Nicoletta in the East Village, including newly added gluten-free pies. The main difference is that the flagship is a full sit-down restaurant, whereas the Yards’ stands are more like counter-order kiosks. Don’t worry, you won’t be taking fragile Neopolitan pizza on the road; the Manhattan shop offers delivery and turns out rounds with intentionally hearty crusts to bolster toppings such as thick-cut pepperoni and house-made fennel sausage, or eggs, pancetta, asparagus, and pecorino cheese on the carbonara pie. There’s no word yet on whether the DC Nicoletta will also serve additional menu items like arancini or meatballs, which pop up in various forms across White’s restaurants.
The new project is slated to open a few months after Osteria Morini, which is forecast to open its doors this summer. Check back in with us for more details as they develop.
The best chefs: On-site tickets are still available for the Chef’s Best Dinner & Auction on Monday at the Washington Hilton. You’ll find 60 toques offering bites, flowing wines and cocktails, a live auction, and a golden ticket raffle. Party for a cause and help raise funds for Food & Friends’ efforts to support those battling HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other life-threatening illnesses. Tickets start at $250 for general admission.
Bourdain sighting: Want to catch Anthony Bourdain while he’s in Washington? You have a chance on Monday when he arrives for the DC leg of his Guts and Glory tour. There are still tickets available for the event at DAR Constitution Hall (either online or by calling 1-800-745-3000), where you’ll hear the star of The Layover and No Reservations tell tales of his adventures. VIP ticket-holders receive perks like a meet-and-greet with the chef-lebrity and complimentary snacks from Bourdain bud José Andrés.
Celebrity chef Art Smith—memorable Top Chef Masters contestant and former personal chef to Oprah Winfrey—always has a lot going on. Recent days are no exception. The Art and Soul owner recently debuted a new look for his Capitol Hill restaurant, published his latest cookbook, Art Smith’s Healthy Comfort, and launched the national Taking Diabetes to Heart campaign to better educate those faced with the disease. Smith, who lost more than 100 pounds himself after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, dished to The Washingtonian about developing healthy recipes, his new restaurant plans for Washington (including in its airports), cooking for the Obamas, and his stance on the food truck situation.
When did you first make the President the recipe for President Barack Obama’s Favorite Glazed Salmon, which appears in Healthy Comfort ?
I made that some time ago. I’ve known the President [since] before he was President—I first met him through Oprah around 2005, and he’s my neighbor in Chicago. At that time I was cooking for Oprah and for the First Family. That recipe was one of his favorites. He’s from Hawaii, and that kind of sweet glaze is very popular.
If you could cook the Obamas any recipe from the book, what would it be?
Knowing their taste—well, they like most everything. There’s a salmon with lentils and mushrooms that’s a really great dish. They’re very fish-driven, and it’s one of my favorite recipes in the book.
Some of the recipes in the book are now on the menu at Art and Soul. Any particular favorites there?
I love my Art Start, which has been on the menu since day one. It’s a really delicious oatmeal. I’ve eaten oatmeal for breakfast for three years. It’s served with berries and Greek yogurt. We also have an egg-white omelet out of the book. In California, at Lyfe Kitchen, we have the un-fried chicken and egg sandwich. Chef Wes [Morton] is working with the book now to bring the various recipes as specials and put them on the menu. For me, learning how to get your act together starts with eating breakfast. I think it’s the most important meal of the day, so that’s where most of my focus has been at the moment.
Since opening in late February, Dupont sandwich joint Bub and Pop’s has been the kind of place to roll up your sleeves and dig into a braised beef brisket sandwich dripping with jus (great for soaking up the booze on weekend nights, when it’s open until 3 AM). Still, it’s obvious chef and co-owner Jon Taub aspires to more than stuffed hoagies—note the jars of seasonal pickles displayed across the counter, and the fact that nearly everything on the menu gets prepped in house. The next step: Bub’s Sunday Table, a monthly supper club where Taub transforms the counter-order eatery into a dining room to serve an 11-course tasting menu to a dozen guests. “People come in late night [on Saturday] and they’re fighting outside, and the next day we have foie gras ballotines,” says Taub.