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Looking to turn up the heat in your kitchen? Local chefs and entrepreneurs are whipping up hot sauces in a global range of flavors. By Anna Spiegel

Washingtonian Featured Content

Uncle Brutha's Allsauce No. 9

District native Brennan "Uncle Brutha" Proctor blends serrano chilies, ginger, and cilantro for his smoky twist ($8) on Mexican salsa verde. All the ingredients are natural and gluten-free.

Best for: Eggs and fish or pork tacos.

Where to find it: Order online at


Woodberry Kitchen Snake Oil

Chef Spike Gjerde of Baltimore's Woodberry Kitchen uses fish peppers for this searing sauce ($12). The chili shows up on his menu in everything from deviled eggs to Bloody Marys.

Best for: Dashing on rich seafood dishes.

Where to find it: Salt & Sundry in Union Market, 1309 Fifth St., NE; 202-556-1866.


Apinya Thai Chili Sauce

Love Sriracha? Try this similarly flavored Thai sauce ($6) out of Herndon. It delivers a bigger hit of ginger plus hints of garlic and roasted bell peppers.

Best for: Marinades, Asian noodles, and grilled meats.

Where to find it: Order online at


Capital City Sweet Hot Mumbo Sauce

The District's iconic condiment ($5)—a flavor mash-up of barbecue and sweet-and-sour sauces—gets extra punch from cayenne and habanero peppers.

Best for: Eggs and fish or pork tacos.

Where to find it: Order online at


Small Small Red Pepper Sauce

Aromatic berbere—a spice mix that's a key ingredient in Ethiopia's long-simmered stews—is the basis for this complex and fragrant sauce ($9).

Best for: Marinating meats and vegetables or substituting for awaze, a hot-pepper paste.

Where to find it: Order online at


Photographs by Jeff Elkins.

This article appears in the April 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.

Posted at 10:45 AM/ET, 03/29/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Canelés marry the lightness of crepes with the crackling sugar of crème brûlée. By Ann Limpert
Photograph by Scott Suchman.

In the world of dessert, canelés are an underdog. Those who have had the Bordeaux-born confections—made from crepe-like batter baked in thimble-shaped copper molds—tend to love them fiercely for their custard-meets-cake insides and slightly chewy, burnt-sugar exteriors. But canelés have yet to receive the recognition afforded their macaron and madeleine cousins. Stéphane Muszynski, a Frenchman who works in sales at a software company, is seeking to change that with Smack, his canelé delivery service that debuted in February and serves DC and its immediate suburbs.

The chicly packaged treats are perfectly burnished and still delicious even after sitting around a few days. Muszynski has come up with flavors of his own—salted caramel, raspberry—but we can’t get enough of the vanilla-bean-flecked originals. Order them, in sets ranging from 8 pieces for $10 to 50 pieces for $45, at, and a satin-bowed box will arrive the next day. There might never be canelé bakeries on every corner, but Muszynski’s sweets deserve to hit the big time.

This article appears in the December 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

Posted at 11:50 AM/ET, 12/10/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
This Pennsylvania honey is worth buzzing about. By Jessica Voelker

Photograph by Jeff Elkins.

As a native of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, I’m tickled to see the grocery staples of my youth—chickens raised on Amish farms, for instance—receive star billing on Washington menus. The fascination with Pennsylvania farm products here means I get to try new-to-me foods from home, too, such as raw honeys ($5 to $8) from Stockin’s Apiaries in the small town of Strasburg.

I learned about Stockin’s from Columbia Room bartender Katie Nelson, a bee-nectar connoisseur who keeps her own hive on the roof of the bar near DC’s Mount Vernon Square. Nelson loves orange-blossom honey, which has a delicate, floral aroma and a rich, spreadable consistency—it’s great slathered on a buttered baguette for breakfast. Funkier and bolder, Stockin’s wildflower honey works well in vinaigrette or diluted into a syrup and combined with an earthy gin and lemon juice for a down-home take on a Bee’s Knees cocktail.

You can find both flavors, plus the company’s alfalfa and buckwheat honeys, at Smucker Farms of Lancaster County (2118 14th St., NW; 202-986-7332), which specializes in local produce and other regional treats.

This article appears in the October 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

Posted at 01:00 PM/ET, 10/01/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
Gina Chersevani’s new bar at the new Union Market is the latest area spot to serve from-scratch “pop.” By Jessica Voelker

Gina Chersevani’s blueberry-soda float—fresh blueberries, vanilla ice cream, soda water, and cardamom. Photograph of float by Jeff Elkins.

In their 1950s heyday, soda jerks hollered jargon such as “heavy on the hail” (extra ice) and “shot in the arm” (cola) at 100,000 soda fountains around the country.

About 125 traditional soda fountains survive today, and this fall local bartender Gina Chersevani is adding another with Buffalo and Bergen—a 15-stool bar at the new Union Market, DC’s answer to Philly’s Reading Terminal Market. Several other restaurants already serve from-scratch “pop.”

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Posted at 11:05 AM/ET, 09/26/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
What's hot and what's not in the region's dining. By Jessica Voelker, Ann Limpert

Lots of Cleveland Park residents use Spices for takeout and delivery, but the food is at its best in the warmly lit dining room. We dug into a tangy salad of green papaya, mango, and red cabbage, and another Vietnamese classic—grilled shrimp over cold vermicelli with nicely crunchy spring rolls, cucumber, mint leaves, and peanuts. Less inspiring: gummy drunken noodles with flavorless minced chicken and the limp, over-steamed edamame. 3333-A Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-686-3833. —JV

Ray’s to the Third
We took the casual route at Michael Landrum’s latest restaurant. The enormous Mack burger—with American cheese and tangy “heck” sauce—was juicy perfection. Tender slices of rib eye elevated a sandwich that included melted American and provolone and grilled onions on a Lyon Bakery sub roll. A side salad lent lovely contrast to the sandwiches, and a boozy shake with bourbon and bacon bits made an indulgent ending. 1650 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-974-7171. —JV

Woodberry Kitchen
Spike and Amy Gjerde may have their mind on new projects, but that hasn’t diminished anything at their farmhouse-cool flagship. Our table became cluttered with terrific snacks: cucumbers seasoned with fish pepper, crab dip with a shot of sherry, a crisp salad of charred sugar-snap peas. Excellent desserts—from a blackberry meringue pie to a marshmallow-and-malt sundae—helped make the meal one of the best we’ve had here. 2010 Clipper Park Rd., Baltimore; 410-464-8000. —AL

This article appears in the September 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

Posted at 10:55 AM/ET, 09/18/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
The First Couple's dinner at Mintwood Place yesterday was just one of many culinary outings. By Ann Limpert
Obama took the Russian president (left) to Ray’s Hell-Burger. Photograph of Medvedev and Obama by Mikhail Klimentyev/AP Photo.

Barack and Michelle Obama have developed a reputation for dining out in Washington more than any other recent First Couple. Whereas George W. Bush rarely ventured outside the White House for food, the current President and First Lady seem to love their covert trips off the reservation. Here’s a guide to where they’ve eaten out—and with whom.

Politicos, Prime Ministers, and Presidents

Ray’s Hell-Burger: Once with Joe Biden, another time with then-Russian president Dmitry Medvedev

1789: With German chancellor Angela Merkel

Woo Lae Oak: With South Korean foreign minister Kim Sung-huan, and South Korean president Lee Myung-bak

Ben’s Chili Bowl: With former DC mayor Adrian Fenty

Regular Folks and Contest Winners

Scion; Liberty Tavern; Boundary Road; Ted’s Bulletin; Lincoln (more cheeseburgers); Kenny’s BBQ Smoke House

Date Night

Citronelle (surprising Michel Richard); Komi; Tosca; Vermilion

Took the Kids

Thomas Sweet; The Dairy Godmother

Birthdays and Anniversaries

The Source; Restaurant NoraBLT Steak; Blue Duck Tavern; Restaurant Eve; Equinox


Taylor Gourmet; Five Guys; Del Ray Pizzeria; Texas Ribs & BBQ

Michelle’s Spots

Georgia Brown’s; Proof; Eatonville (who kept it under wraps); Good Stuff Eatery; Oyamel; Acadiana; We, the Pizza; B. Smith’s

Namesake Treats

Obama-inspired dishes proliferated in 2008, but some have had staying power. Here’s how restaurants are celebrating the eater-in-chief:

Prez Obama Burger
A $6.98 pileup of bacon, onion marmalade, Roquefort, and horseradish mayo at Good Stuff Eatery.

Obama’s Home Sweet Home
A riff on a rickey made with Bulleit bourbon, lime, club soda, and pineapple juice at DC’s Topaz Bar.

The Obama Burger
A $28 Wagyu burger with bacon, cheddar, scallion mustard, and house-made ketchup at BLT Steak.

This article appears in the September 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

Posted at 03:00 PM/ET, 08/21/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
This summer, one indulgent way to kick back is with these frozen treats. By Jessica Voelker

The Cuba Libre Float at Bar Pilar. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Cuba Libre Float at Bar Pilar
It’s not on the cocktail menu, but ask beverage director Jonathan Fain to make this combo of rum, Mexican Coke, and vanilla gelato topped with absinthe-laced whipped cream and cherries soaked in Southern Comfort. The complex concoction comes in a Coke bottle with the top lopped off.

Lemonade-Thyme Snow Cone at the Ritz-Carlton Lobby Bar
Crushed ice gets a kick of vodka at this twinkly drinks spot—light, bright lemonade-thyme is the best of the three flavors, but you can try strawberry-basil and blueberry-mojito when you order the “trio.” Just don’t count on driving home.

Shake-and-Bake Cordial Shake at Ray’s to the Third
Restaurateur Michael Landrum stays true to his over-the-top style with this boozy, sweet-then-salty libation combining chocolate syrup, caramel, vanilla ice cream, bourbon, whipped cream, and bacon bits.

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Posted at 12:40 PM/ET, 07/27/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
Want to whip up some smoked ice cream or cocktails at home? Just aim the Smoking Gun. By Anna Spiegel

The Smoking Gun. Photograph courtesy of Polyscience.

Smoking is a technique originally used to preserve meats and fish, but some chefs are smoking everything from gnocchi to ice cream. At home, the process often requires a custom-built smoker plus a few hours. It wasn’t till we spotted bartenders at DC’s Elisir using a Smoking Gun that we learned a shortcut.

The restaurant uses the tool ($100 at Williams-Sonoma) to blow cool smoke made from pipe tobacco and hickory chips—among the many chips that can be ordered with the gun—onto brandied cherries for a Manhattan. In the dining room, an applewood cloud billows from a branzino-filled cigar box. We fired up the gun to give it a try. Unlike hot smoking, cold smoking won’t cook food, so the gun is all about flavor, and it’s best used on ingredients incorporated into a dish or drink.

Cherry-wood-smoked whiskey-pecan ice cream on apple pie was delicious, and bourbon-barrel-smoked cream stirred into espresso created a smooth, alcohol-free Irish coffee. It also works as a finishing touch. Steak smoked with hickory before searing didn’t retain a woodsy flavor, whereas hitting roast chicken with a cloud of the same recalled hours in a smokehouse. Want to play magician? The Elisir effect is easy: Pipe applewood smoke into a glass, invert it over a sliver of raw salmon, and the sweetly smoky fish appears in a heady cloud when the glass is lifted.

This article appears in the May 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

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Posted at 02:05 PM/ET, 05/23/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
The bartender shares her hangover remedy, favorite day drink, best work outfit, and more. By Anna Spiegel

The Columbia Room's Katie Nelson. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

When it comes to mixing hard liquor with feminine style, few do it better than Katie Nelson, bartender at the Columbia Room in DC's Mount Vernon Square neighborhood. We checked in with Nelson about her favorite drink, thoughts on vodka, and morning-after pick-me-ups.

Always on the home bar: Plymouth gin.

Cocktail to make at home: Dark and Stormy with Gosling's ginger beer or Blenheim ginger ale and a dark rum such as Myers's.

Cocktail to impress guests: Gin martini. "I pinch the lemon peel to distribute the oils and then toss it."

First drink: Whiskey sour.

Liqueur: Chartreuse Green.

Bitters: Peychaud's.

Brand of tonic: Fever-Tree.

Vodka is . . . : "Tasteless, which can be useful."

Mixer: Blenheim ginger ale; Canada Dry bitter-lemon soda.

Special-occasion drink: Champagne from small growers like Pierre Gimonnet and Henriot.

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Posted at 03:25 PM/ET, 05/22/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
What's hot and what's not in the region's dining.
By Jessica Voelker, Todd Kliman

Lyon Hall's pork schnitzel with potato salad. Photograph by Chris Leaman.

Yamas Mediterranean Grill
We knew something was off when we stepped into this Greek cafe--where were the aromas of garlic and herbs? The bold flavors that once drew us to Yamas appear to have flattened: Roast potatoes tasted of the steam table, a whole fish with herbs and lemon was overcooked, and a rotisserie chicken could have come from the supermarket. Only spanakopita and taramasalata had zip.

Lyon Hall
Mussels are popular at this brasserie, but there are also rewards in less obvious items such as escargots in garlic-butter; cornmeal-crusted flounder; and a riff on currywurst featuring a juicy brat, pickled cauliflower, and curry aïoli. House-made breads are gratis--but don't let that dissuade you from starting with salt-studded soft pretzels accompanied by a trio of mustards.

The Bombay Club
This handsome dining room has been overshadowed by its more modern sibling Rasika. But on a recent Friday, the place bubbled over with happy families and well-dressed thirtysomethings sipping martinis. Too-formal service stifled the sense of fun, but tandoori salmon was tender, the lamb shank in the nalli gosht was fragrant with cinnamon, and pillowy naan and onion kulcha were perfect for soaking up all that sauce.

This article appears in the May 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

Posted at 12:40 PM/ET, 05/18/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()