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20,000 of these brownies will hit Washington during the inauguration.

They’ve been baking 24 hours a day for two weeks. They’ve gone through 1,050 dozen eggs, 1,200 pounds of flour, and an incalculable amount of sugar. All of this in preparation for an inauguration giveaway of 20,000 brownies.

Real-estate executive, lawyer, and philanthropist Connie Milstein founded Connie’s Bakery in Mount Kisco, New York, four years ago to help low- and no-income New Yorkers get job training and earn a living wage. Each year, four people down on their luck are given the opportunity to spend a year as apprentices under Simeon Manber, former assistant pastry chef at Mario Batali’s flagship New York restaurant, Babbo. All profits from the bakery go to local charities.

The bakery has given many people a new beginning, and now it’s contributing to a different kind of new beginning. Milstein, who has contributed money to various Democrats over the years, decided to honor the incoming President by shutting down the bakery for two weeks and devoting all of her attention to baking brownies for the inaugural masses.

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Posted at 12:09 PM/ET, 01/16/2009 | Permalink | Comments ()
Here are Washington restaurants that will remind the Obamas of their favorite Chicago spots. By Cynthia Hacinli

The shaved-ice sundae at Bob’s Noodle 66 comes close to the Hawaiian ice of Obama’s childhood.

If you want to spot the First Couple around Washington, head for the city’s counterpart to Spiaggia. That’s the Chicago hot spot where Barack and Michelle Obama chose to celebrate their historic victory four days after the election. It’s a high-priced ($28 appetizers) Italian restaurant with a drop-dead view of Lake Michigan.

Spiaggia’s closest local clone is probably Tosca (1112 F St., NW; 202-367-1990), with its creative house-made pastas and a wine list of lesser-known pours as well as big names from Piedmont in northern Italy. One thing’s missing: the stunning view.

For that, the Obamas will have to head to 2941 (2941 Fairview Park Dr., Falls Church; 703-270-1500), where a landscaped lake and koi pond are the backdrop for Modern French fare and a wine list that’s one of the area’s best.

With its artisanal menu and emphasis on handcrafted everything, Blue Duck Tavern (1201 24th St., NW; 202-419-6755) is the local counterpart to Sepia, an Obama Chicago favorite with a farm-to-table sensibility. Both places serve Black Berkshire pork.

The Obamas are fans of Chicago celebrity chef Rick Bayless’s Topolobampo, so it seems likely they’d want to check out DC celeb chef José Andrés’s Oyamel (401 Seventh St., NW; 202-628-1005). Besides small plates such as grilled skirt steak with pickled cactus, it serves up grasshoppers. The President-elect, who wrote of eating grasshoppers in Dreams From My Father, may want to give them another try at Oyamel, where the critters are flash-fried and piled into a taco with shallots and tequila.

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Posted at 01:57 PM/ET, 01/15/2009 | Permalink | Comments ()
Photograph by Jason Andelman

If you need a reason to eat chocolate—but really, who does?—Jason Andelman gives you this one: to celebrate the inauguration. His chocolate boutique in Arlington, Artisan Confections, started churning out inauguration-themed bonbons yesterday.

The chocolate morsels come in “change” and “hope” motifs, with the words screened on top in ten different languages. William Knight, artist and co-owner of DC’s Biagio Fine Chocolate, came up with the design just last week.

“We’d been talking about doing something for the inauguration since December, but the holidays got in the way,” Andelman says. The pair resurrected the idea a week ago and had the design etched on transfer paper over the weekend; they started dipping the chocolates yesterday. When we talked to Andelman this morning, he’d already sold a box of his new confections.  

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Posted at 01:56 PM/ET, 01/15/2009 | Permalink | Comments ()
Can you ring in a new president without ringing up a shocking bill? We challenge Vidalia’s chef, R.J. Cooper, to whip up a celebratory inauguration feast for $20 (ish). By Kelly DiNardo

R.J. Cooper doesn’t want to play by the rules. When the Vidalia chef accepted our Frugal Foodie challenge and agreed to cook a festive inaugural-themed menu for four, we told him that the supermarket bill couldn’t exceed $20 (not counting standard pantry items such as sugar and olive oil). But the first thing he tells me when we meet at the grocery store is that he brought a few things with him—including the main course, oxtail ragoût.

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Posted at 01:56 PM/ET, 01/15/2009 | Permalink | Comments ()
The transfer of power from Bush to Obama has been one of the smoothest and fastest. Now comes a transition for all the new staffers, friends, and supporters: learning a new city. They can ease their entry by . . . By Todd Kliman, Ann Limpert, Cynthia Hacinli, Kate Nerenberg, Rina Rapuano

The Old Ebbitt Grill is a decades-old fixture of DC’s dining scene. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

. . . ordering the Orca Platter—a feast of lobster, oysters, clams, crab claws, and shrimp—at the historic Old Ebbitt Grill (675 15th St., NW; 202-347-4800), various incarnations of which have hosted presidents as far back as Andrew Johnson. The sprawling space is as opulent as the seafood.

. . . walking the leopard-print carpet at the Prime Rib (2020 K St., NW; 202-466-8811) to eat the titular hunk of meat, the power dish of choice at this throwback dining room where jackets are still required for dinner.

. . . grabbing a seat at the bar at Kinkead’s (2000 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-296-7700) to enjoy oysters, crab cakes, lobster rolls, chowder, and glimpses of politicos.

. . . ogling the caricatures on the wall at the Palm (1225 19th St., NW; 202-293-9091)—and trying to talk maître d’ Tommy Jacomo into giving you a special table from which to watch the parade of politicians and media mavens.

. . . having a picture snapped with Ben Ali of Ben’s Chili Bowl (1213 U St., NW; 202-667-0909). The high-profile actors, musicians, and politicians who can’t resist the chili half-smokes with cheese have made this neon-lit shack a legend.

. . . presiding over a power breakfast, lunch, or dinner in one of the private booths at Johnny’s Half Shell (400 N. Capitol St., NW; 202-737-0400), a hit since its move from Dupont Circle to Capitol Hill a few years back. The food remains real and rooted in classics such as crab cakes and apple pie.

. . . sampling the small plates at José Andrés’s restaurants, headed by DC’s most beloved Iron Chef America contestant. Zaytinya (701 Ninth St., NW; 202-638-0800), Oyamel (401 Seventh St., NW; 202-628-1005), Jaleo (480 Seventh St., NW; 202-628-7949), Café Atlántico (405 Eighth St., NW; 202-393-0812), Minibar (405 Eighth St., NW, Second Floor; 202-393-0812)—take your pick; they’re all pretty wonderful.

. . . spotting celebrities at Georgetown’s Cafe Milano (3251 Prospect St., NW; 202-333-6183), where beautiful people dine on pastas named for Italian designers and where a room was added to allow Plácido Domingo to eat more peacefully.

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Posted at 01:56 PM/ET, 01/15/2009 | Permalink | Comments ()
Lara Stuckey's Obama cupcakes are selling like. . .well, hotcakes.

Want to really impress your guests during the inauguration? Order a batch of Lara Stuckey’s handmade Barack Obama sweets.

Stuckey, owner and head designer at Fluffy Thoughts Bakery in McLean, has been baking treats with Obama’s likeness since before the election, when she sold cupcakes to raise funds for his campaign. Now, with the election in the bag, she’s selling Obama cupcakes and cake toppers to inauguration-crazed crowds looking for a celebratory sugar rush.

A few inaugural-ball hosts have contacted Stuckey to make desserts for their events, and she’s taken tons of orders from private individuals hosting house parties to celebrate the inauguration. Her most popular item is the Obama cupcake ($4). Using Shepard Fairey’s iconic Obama image, Stuckey and her small team of two create each Obama face out of white chocolate screened with the image. Then they add color and hand-pipe the design for a finished look. The process takes ten minutes per cupcake.

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Posted at 01:56 PM/ET, 01/15/2009 | Permalink | Comments ()

In honor of the inauguration, former Top Chef-er Spike Mendelsohn's Good Stuff Eatery is adding a morning menu to its usual lineup of burgers and shakes. From tomorrow through January 21st, you'll find cinnamon buns, eggs-on-brioche, bacon, and coffee at the Hill hangout. We'll see how they compete with the hangover-curing Spike's Five Napkin, the gluttonous egg-and-bacon-topped burger available all year-round.

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Posted at 01:55 PM/ET, 01/15/2009 | Permalink | Comments ()
This is the Lincoln-replica china that will be used at Obama's luncheon. Photo courtesy of the JCCIC

Breaking news: Barack Obama's first act as president will be. . .to eat lunch. Immediately following the swearing-in ceremony, he'll be ushered into the Capitol's Statuary Hall for the 2009 Inaugural Luncheon, upholding a tradition that's been in place for more than a century.

The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) announced the menu for the 200-person lunch today, which will be attended by the Obama's family, Joe Biden and his family, the Supreme Court, Cabinet designees, and members of Congressional leadership.

Arlington-based caterers Design Cuisine are heading the event, creating a menu that draws from the Abraham Lincoln theme of the inauguration. Apparently, Lincoln preferred simple foods, such as stew, wild game, and fresh fruit.

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Posted at 01:55 PM/ET, 01/15/2009 | Permalink | Comments ()