• In his First Bite column this week, the Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema wrote about Watershed, the second restaurant from Todd Gray, co-owner of Equinox in downtown DC. At the end of the column, Sietsema tells us that Gray “recently signed a deal with St. Martin’s Press to write a cookbook with his wife, fellow restaurateur Ellen Kassoff Gray, about their mixed-kitchen marriage.” Gray says that a potential title for the book is You Say Potato, I Say Latke. (In other Sietsema-related news, his Spring Dining Guide comes out in print Sunday but is now available on the Web. The highest rating among the 15 restaurants: three stars; two restaurants earned the lowest: a half star.)
• Mike Isabella, Top Chef All Stars runner-up and owner of the soon-to-open Graffiato in DC’s Penn Quarter, will put out Flavors From a Jersey Italian in fall 2012. From a press release, we learned that the recipes—think potato gnocchi, Italian “gravy,” and zeppole—are based on ones from Isabella’s grandmother, who passed away when he was 21.
Speaking of local Top Chef alumni, Spike Mendelsohn of Capitol Hill’s Good Stuff Eatery and We, the Pizza, was featured on People’s District, a blog that asks Washington residents to tell their story in their own words. At the end of his monologue, Mendelsohn said, “Here, I opened one restaurant, Good Stuff, that developed my entire career. It is nice to be in a second-tier city where you can be a big fish in a small pond.” Those words incited some vitriolic responses from Don Rockwell and the Hill Is Home blog. Tim Carman of the Washington Post wrote a blog post entitled “In Defense of Spike Mendelsohn” and went so far as to ask four local restaurateurs (Ashok Bajaj, Mark Bucher, Jamie Leeds, and Michael Landrum) their thoughts on Washington as “second tier.” Let us know your opinion in the comments.
In more news to be filed under “what you say or do in front of the media can go viral on the Web”: At Monday night’s James Beard Awards, Restaurant Eve chef Cathal Armstrong—a nominee in the Best Chef Mid-Atlantic category—didn’t take home the win, and his wife, Meshelle, posted a Twitter picture of her giving the middle finger about the situation. She gave a response in Tom Sietsema’s Wednesday chat.
Here’s an award Cathal Armstrong did get, and may be more distinguished than a Beard recognition: The White House named him a Champion of Change for his work on improving school lunches. Last summer he founded the nonprofit Chefs as Parents in an effort to get healthy food into cafeterias.
Wednesday we received a press release saying that celebrity chef Bobby Flay is opening Bobby’s Burger Palace . . . in a student center at the University of Maryland in College Park. There have been rumors for a long time about Flay’s burger concept coming to Washington, but signs have always pointed to downtown DC. The release says the space is 3,500 square feet and should be open September 1. There are currently five other Bobby’s locations on the East Coast. Philadelphia magazine has this to say about his outpost there: “The buns are old-school sesame seed; the patties, juicy, grill-flavored, and exceptionally well seasoned. For sides, add the crispy, slightly spicy fries or one of the rich milkshakes.
Eater reports that the cute little house that was Gillian Clark’s General Store, until an abrupt closure in March, will become Pacci’s Trattoria & Pasticceria at the end of next month. Spiro Gioldasis—the landlord of the building, owner of Pacci’s Neapolitan Pizzeria in Silver Spring, and general manager of Mrs. K’s Toll House—is behind the new restaurant. There’ll be an espresso bar for morning jolts, as well as pasta, pizza, and sandwiches. Bethesda Magazine adds that dinner entrées will be less than $20, and the place will be open from 7 AM to 9:30 PM daily.
Last Saturday, the Obamas visited another local restaurant: Tosca in DC’s Penn Quarter. The white-tablecloth Italian restaurant is helmed by chef Massimo Fabbri and is known for its pastas and power players.