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Hushpuppies—deep-fried orbs of cornbread that are a staple in the South—are quickly becoming the bar snack chefs most love to play with.
By Ann Limpert

The Cajun Experience

Creamy corn adds richness to the golf-ball-size starters at these zydeco-playing joints. 14 Loudoun St., SE, Leesburg, 703-777-6580; 1825 18th St., NW, 202-670-4416.

Food Wine & Co.

There's plenty of fried goodness on Michael Harr's menu, but the standout is a plate of buttermilk-enriched hushpuppies to be dunked in honey-dill butter. Harr tried to take them off the menu, but too many diners complained. 7272 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda; 301-652-8008.

Mintwood Place

Cedric Maupillier, who learned to fuse French and American sensibilities under Michel Richard at Citronelle and Central, pumps up his hushpuppies with a classic Gallic combination: escargots with plenty of garlic. 1813 Columbia Rd., NW; 202-234-6732.

Vidalia

The hidden gem at this upscale Southern dining room is its affordable, recently expanded bar menu, which offers terrific snacks such as these darkly fried drops of cornbread flecked with crawfish and served with smoked honey butter. 1990 M St., NW; 202-659-1990.

Photographs by Scott Suchman.

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

Posted at 12:15 PM/ET, 05/17/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
The food-truck craze has hit Montgomery County, where you can find everything from cupcakes to corned beef on wheels. Here are our favorites.
By Anna Spiegel

Go Fish
Perfect For: Fresh seafood--in tacos, chowder, and sandwiches--on the go.
We've Liked: Lobster rolls kicked up with lemon zest; crabcake sandwich.
Insider Tip: You can pick up fresh fish such as salmon and rockfish to cook at home as well as prepared foods.
Areas Served: Silver Spring, Bethesda, Kensington, Potomac, Rockville, Gaithersburg, Olney.

Corned Beef King
Perfect For: Satisfying an NYC-deli craving with pastrami and corned beef on Lyon Bakery rye.
We've Liked: Corned-beef Reuben; pastrami-and-slaw sandwich; meat-and-potato knish.
Insider Tip: Miss the truck at lunch? It sets up shop in Olney for dinner nightly and for breakfast on weekends.
Areas Served: Silver Spring, Bethesda, Gaithersburg, Olney, Rockville.

Cupcake Blvd
Perfect For: Classic cupcakes (red velvet, lavafudge) and more-unusual flavors (guava/cream cheese).
We've Liked: Peppermint patty, dulce de leche, and Oreo cupcakes.
Insider Tip: Order a dozen and the truck will deliver to you.
Areas Served: Silver Spring, Bethesda, Rockville.

Curley's Q
Perfect For: Big appetites--portions of hardwood-smoked meats are hearty.
We've Liked: Curley's Plate, with pulled pork, chicken, and brisket; vinegary slaw.
Insider Tip: Look for specials, which might include pit beef and a range of international barbecue preparations.
Areas Served: Silver Spring, Bethesda, Rockville, Gaithersburg.

Pino's Auto Grill
Perfect For: Anyone yearning for Italian home cooking, including pasta and subs.
We've Liked: Penne Bolognese with meatballs; Italian cold-cut sub.
Insider Tip: Popular items such as steak-and-cheese sandwiches can run out early.
Areas Served: Silver Spring, Bethesda, Rockville, Gaithersburg.

Thatsalata
Perfect For: A healthy lunch: salads, veggie chili, sandwiches with freshly roasted turkey.
We've Liked: Chop Shop salad with grilled steak; chicken quesadillas; vanilla/date shakes.
Insider Tip: In a rush? You can phone in an order until 11:30 am and pick it up curbside.
Areas Served: Silver Spring, Bethesda, Kensington, Rockville, Gaithersburg.

Photographs by Erik Uecke.

This article appears in the May 2012 issue of The Washingtonian. Visit our slideshow of Montgomery County trucks to see tasty pictures of individual dishes.

Posted at 02:35 PM/ET, 05/11/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
Give gin its due by pairing it with a worthy mixer. By Jessica Voelker

At New Heights, ginger and black pepper spice up one of the many house-made tonics. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Poor gin. It's so often associated with our first, ill-conceived alcohol adventures: nips from Mom and Dad's liquor cabinet, cloying drinks at frat parties. Handled properly, however, gin is one of the most complex and delicious spirits. Gin gets its taste and aroma from botanicals steeped into it--predominantly juniper berry, though many distillers add other ingredients to get a spicier or more floral product.

The increasing range of gins calls for a diversity of tonics. At New Heights in DC's Woodley Park, house-made tonics such as the #4, flavored with mango, are paired with 50-odd gins. Co-owner Kavita Singh says the #3, scented with lime and orange flower, brings out the stone-fruit qualities of the West Virginia gin Smooth Ambler and complements "aromatic, fresh" Old Raj. The list of tonics keeps expanding--bar manager Nicole Hassoun recently concocted a ginger-and-cracked-pepper tonic inspired by the notes of grapefruit peel and ginger in the newly available Breuckelen's Glorious Gin from Brooklyn.

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Posted at 03:10 PM/ET, 05/04/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
The chef shares his favorite drinks, dream trip, takeout of choice, and other must-haves. By Anna Spiegel

Photograph by Scott Suchman.

You might not know Ron Tanaka's name--he tends to stay out of the spotlight--but he has cooked at such high-profile restaurants as Palena and CityZen. After almost four years at Cork, he now mans the stoves at New Heights. He took a break from testing a pickled-boar recipe to tell us about his favorite drinks, dream trip, and takeout of choice.

Always on the bar: Nolet's gin.

Special-occasion drink: White burgundy from Etienne Sauzet.

Post-work bar: Bar Pilar on DC's 14th Street.

Liquor store: Barrel House Liquors in DC's Logan Circle.

Energy source: Vitamin Water Focus.

Breakfast: Steak and eggs.

Lunch spot: Chix, near DC's U Street. "It's very serene."

Lazy carryout spot: Thaiphoon in Dupont Circle.

Sandwich: Corned beef on rye from Deli City in Northeast DC.

Healthy snack: Banana.

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Posted at 03:20 PM/ET, 04/24/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
What's hot and what's not in the region's dining.
By Ann Limpert, Jessica Voelker

Dogfish Head Alehouse
On a Saturday night, the Seven Corners branch of this brewpub crawled with kids, lending it a happy chaos seldom seen in bars. Ales--such as Namaste, a witbier, and Chateau Jiahu, made with Muscat grapes--were excellent. Food was hit or miss: Old Bay wings hit the spot, but a burger was overpowered by marinated mushrooms and chipotle mayo was the best thing about mahi-mahi tacos. Next time we'll get a double order of wings and keep the beers coming.

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Posted at 11:05 AM/ET, 04/24/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
Jennifer Voories is recreating the desserts of your childhood with a twist.
By Jessica Voelker
Photograph by Scott Suchman.

"I have the palate of a five-year-old," says Jennifer Voories, the DC baker behind a line of desserts called Sweet Moe's. Her treats, though, are tailored to more adult tastes. A Ding Dong looks like the flat-topped Hostess cake of the same name, but it's made with chocolate cake and cinnamon-laced cream filling devoid of a chemical aftertaste.

Voories's fascination with kid-friendly food dates from her childhood. She grew up across from a Hostess outlet in Michigan and regularly shopped the day-old store for Sno Balls and Wonder Bread.

Her crowning achievement so far is a take on Archway's petal-edged Frosty Lemon cookies. She says she struggled to do justice to the lemony glaze, but her version is brightly citrusy and not too sweet. It tops a light, crisp cookie--a perfect afternoon snack for sweets lovers of all ages.

Some Sweet Moe's items are on the menu at Red Palace. Voories also takes orders on Sweet Moe's Facebook page.

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

Posted at 12:45 PM/ET, 04/11/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
We asked the newlyweds about their dream splurges and other stuff they hold dear. By Anna Spiegel
Photograph by Scott Suchman.

This winter, newlyweds Ashley Hubbard and Robert Ludlow went from hawking their creatively flavored chocolates at farmers markets to opening Fleurir Chocolates (3235 P St., NW; 202-465-4368), a gem of a boutique in Georgetown. We asked them about their dream splurges and other favorite things.

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Posted at 03:35 PM/ET, 03/22/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
Our Thoughts on Virginia Lamb & Meats’ Bacon Jam. By Anna Spiegel
Photograph by Erik Uecke.

The bacon craze has resulted in many pork-infused disasters--ice creams, air fresheners--so we were skeptical when Virginia Lamb & Meats' bacon jam ($8) appeared at the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market. But after sampling the bourbon-colored spread,which has echoes of maple syrup, we're hooked.

Virginia Lamb owners Corey and Janet Childs aren't jumping on a current trend but mining an old one. "Potting," or slow-cooking meat with a good deal of fat, is a tradition. For the jam, bacon is smoked from the hogs raised by the couple's 14-year-old son, then braised. Spread it on toast for a double BLT or grilled cheese, mix it into a steak marinade, or slather it on pancakes. However you use it, this is one product that will survive the bacon boom.

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

Posted at 01:30 PM/ET, 03/21/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
What's hot and what's not in the region's dining. By Ann Limpert, Jessica Voelker

Redwood on Bethesda Row. Photograph by Jasmine Touton.

Evening Star Cafe

At this renovated Del Ray favorite, CityZen alum Jim Jeffords is creating impeccable riffs on Southern classics. Plump shrimp marinated in shallots, garlic, and pepper flakes top creamy grits; pan-roasted duck breast comes with hazelnut-studded dirty rice. Pimiento-cheese-filled Peppadew peppers are crisp and slightly spicy--a perfect way to start dinner. To end it, there's a deep-fried, honey-laced Fluffernutter sandwich with banana ice cream. -Jessica Voelker

Redwood

The menu at this handsome Bethesda Row eatery is full of ingredient-focused, straightforward dishes--the kind that show every flaw. On a recent visit, dressing on a salad of beets and arugula lacked the acid needed to give the dish verve, and a gratin of artichokes, sunchokes, fingerlings, and chèvre was greasy and underseasoned. The highlight was the burger, made with beef from Maryland's Roseda Farms and dressed with snappy pickles. -Jessica Voelker

Kafe Leopold & Konditorei

The white-on-white decor looks a bit worn and service is on the officious side, but that hasn't stopped a cashmere-clad Georgetown crowd from coming. That's thanks to the fact that the kitchen has been holding up its end, sending out a zippy kale salad, lemony roast chicken, and a decadent croque monsieur. Alas, the pastries in the glass cases are still better to look at than to eat. -Ann Limpert

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

Posted at 10:52 AM/ET, 03/15/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
You don’t have to be a college kid to drink out of a keg—at least when it comes to wine. By Kayleigh Kulp

Believe it or not, wine from a keg isn’t terrible. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Places such as the Penn Quarter brasserie Poste, the pizza-and-pasta hot spot Graffiato, and the Columbia wine bar Aida Bistro are serving value-priced wines from kegs.

“We just wanted to do something new and offer people something they’ve never seen before,” says James Horn, general manager at Graffiato, which serves Prosecco from a keg. “It sparks curiosity.”

On a practical level, kegs keep popular wines fresher longer. Because the wine goes from a stainless-steel cask directly to the glass, it doesn’t oxidize as quickly. It’s also more eco-friendly and cost-efficient. According to Dan Donahoe of California’s Silvertap Wines, a keg of wine saves 26 glass bottles from the recycling bin and reduces a winemaker’s production costs by up to 25 percent.

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

Posted at 03:57 PM/ET, 03/13/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()