Pad himmapan with Chicken at Thai Taste by Kob (review coming in May)
After weeks of Todd pushing it in our meetings, I finally made it to Thai Taste by Kob in Wheaton, which wasn’t just a superb dinner—it might’ve been the best Thai dinner I’ve had in Washington. We did the grilled pork moo yangskewers, the spicy papaya salad, Todd’s recommended bamee moo deang (egg noodles topped with roast pork, baby bok choy, and fish balls), kiew tod shrimp wontons, the kai yad sai omelet, and a seriously hot basil fried rice with shrimp. But the best dishes of the night were the fried chicken with cashews ( pad himmapan) and the kua kling with pork, a jungle-style curry from South Thailand that we just couldn’t stop eating. And the best part of the evening? After ordering an absurd amount of food, the bill came out to be just $22 per person.
The Charcuterie pizza at Vin 909 Winecafe
I tend to be skeptical of pizzas with more than four toppings.
Not that a pie that loads it up can’t sometimes be delicious, but Neapolitan pizza—the reigning style in the region—is best when it’s simplest. Too many ingredients almost guarantees you won’t be able to pick up a slice without all that expensive Buffalo mozzarella you sprang for sliding off onto the table.
This tends not to be a problem with pizzas baked in a brick oven. They can bear the load. Their durability, however, often comes at the expense of taste; most brick-oven crusts are pretty rudimentary things compared to most Neapolitan crusts, which have the texture of great bread.
The great thing about the crusts at Vin 909 is that they combine the sturdiness of a brick-oven crust with the finesse of a wood-fired one.
I love them with just a smear of marinara, mozzarella, and basil, but I’ve discovered that they’re just as fantastic loaded up with American Berkshire prosciutto, applewood bacon, spicy soppressata, wild and local mushrooms, tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil, and olive oil—a concoction chef Justin Moore calls the Charcuterie.
The toppings knit together so well you’re not even aware that there are nine different ingredients on your pie, but at the same time—and true to the Italian way—each bite is a little different from the one before it.
The best pizza I’ve eaten in a year.
Hot dogs at Haute Dogs and Fries
As someone with a lifelong fear of Spam, I have a weird affinity for that other processed meat product of scary and unintelligible origin, the hot dog. Dirty water dogs from midtown street vendors, chili half-smokes at Ben’s, I’ll take ’em all (though I draw the line at the microwaved ones on Amtrak).
Thank god this Old Town hangout—a spinoff of the original Haute Dogs in Purcellville—is a safe distance away from where I live in DC, because their dogs are my kryptonite. I tried three, and I couldn’t pick one to single out, since each was delicious in its own way. There was the purist-friendly Fenway dog, loaded with relish and yellow mustard; the spicy-sweet bánh mì dog, with Sriracha mayo, cucumbers, and cilantro; and the sleeper hit, the Duck Duck Dog, which is a hot dog done up like one of my other favorite things in the world—Peking duck—with hoisin and scallions. What they all have in common is the smoky and salty sausages. But what really elevates them are the top-split, liberally buttered, and griddled buns. They could stuff anything—even Spam—into one of those things and I’d probably gobble it up.
Pasta with clams at Fiola Mare
Chef Fabio and Maria Trabocchi’s airy Italian spot has attracted an US Weekly’s worth of A-listers since opening just over a month ago; Michelle Obama and rocker Steven Tyler are among the most recent. Fittingly, the kitchen creates dishes designed to wow, both with luxurious ingredients—an order of caviar-topped oysters for the table?—and sea-centric indulgences, such as meaty lobster ravioli that have stayed with Trabocchi since his Maestro days. But my favorite dish is among the menu’s most simple: pasta with clams. Perfectly toothsome Gragnano spaghetti arrives Amalfi Coast-style, a spicy toss of Italian chilies, tomato, and sweet littleneck clams crowned with fat pieces of calamari. Like some of the best dishes, it takes me back to a better place, in this case a sunny vacation in Capri, filled with warm afternoons spent over cold white wine and the freshest seafood imaginable. The dull Potomac waters flowing outside Fiola Mare’s windows are a far cry from the bright blues of Southern Italy, but even if the natural environment doesn’t help along the transporting experience, the kitchen has it right.
See also: Previous Best Things I Ate
It’s become routine to visit bars where the bartender makes a flourish out of meticulously crafting a cocktail, component by component. But what about walking into a bar and doing it yourself? The St. Regis Hotel has introduced a monthly Saturday-afternoon cocktail class at which patrons mix their own drinks, learn the ABCs of the recipes, and, of course, drink them, too.
The first class, a few weeks ago, focused on classics such as the Old Fashioned, Manhattan, and French 75, and one for the current season: a Japanese-whiskey-based Cherry Blossom. The class has room for ten participants to sit at the bar (plus room for overflow), where beverage director Orcun Turkay lays out all the necessary ingredients and tools: jiggers, strainers, shakers, and an array of glasses suited to each drink, which he explains how and when to use.
Turkay offers tips and tricks that help both novices—always use the freshest egg whites in drinks for a creamy foam, for instance—and more seasoned home bartenders, such as which drinks to stir and which to shake and why, James Bond notwithstanding. For some, drinking four cocktails in the middle of the afternoon may seem a bit much, but the pace is slow, and it’s possible to make the drinks as potent or as weak as you wish. (Tip: It’s a good idea to plan to walk or cab home.) The class spanned two hours and included the occasional bite-size portion of pork belly flatbread, lobster bruschetta, and Croque Monsieur.
The next class— Saturday, April 19—will focus on the Bloody Mary, which, according to St. Regis legend, was created in 1934 at the King Cole Bar, tucked inside the hotel chain’s New York flagship. Besides recipes you’ll learn the history behind the beverage. A fun fact in advance: Because bartenders were timid about using the word “bloody,” the brunch time favorite was initially called a “Red Snapper.”
Classes begin at 2 PM ($70 per person), and include a copy of the St. Regis Bloody Mary book. Call 202-638-2626 for reservations.
It seems like there’s a national holiday for practically every food—but when the food in question is grilled cheese, we’re on board, especially when it coincides with the opening of a restaurant dedicated to the crispy, melty sandwiches. Say hello to GCDC, an eatery near the White House opening today, just in time for National Grilled Cheese Day on Saturday.
We got an exclusive first look (and taste) of the menu back in February, and have had carbonara grilled cheese on the mind since. Many of the daytime sandwiches riff on classic dishes—such as a French-onion-soup offering with Gruyère and caramelized onions—or other sandwiches, like a Mexican cemita stuffed with chorizo, avocado, and salsa. Guests can design their own creations day and night, though the evening menu has a wine-bar vibe—albeit with an equal emphasis on brews and booze—boasting various cheese and charcuterie boards. Not typical for your average vino spot: nacho-style tater tots smothered in cheddar sauce, bacon, and jalapeños, or a poutine spin with cheese curds and mushroom gravy.
The eatery celebrates National Grilled Cheese Day on Saturday with $5 specialty grilled cheeses and half-price draft beers from 11 to 3. If you needed another excuse to head toward the White House area besides the cherry blossoms in peak bloom, this could be it.
GCDC. 1730 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-393-4232. Grand opening hours Friday, 11 to 9 and Saturday 11 to 3.
It’s hard to believe coming out of this never-ending winter, but the outdoor-drinking landscape has changed for the better since your limbs last felt sunshine. With highs today around 70 and an even warmer weekend ahead, it’s prime time to discover newly opened al fresco dining and drinking spots. Note that a number of prime patios—such as those at Fiola Mare, Mission, and Agua 301—are still in the works, but will open very soon.
1725 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
Not much has changed menu-wise at the first standalone spinoff of the iconic U Street Ben’s. One major difference: a handful of outdoor tables for taking down a chili half-smoke al fresco.
919 U St., NW
This Mexican beer garden has been covered by a retractable roof since its January debut. Now the U Street bar is going topless on nice days, and opening at noon on Saturday and Sunday so you can catch some weekend sunlight. Daily specials include domino tournaments on Monday, $3 Tamale Tuesdays, and screenings of Mexican wrestling matches on Wednesday.
7945 MacArthur Blvd., Cabin John; 301-229-0900
If your weekend plans involve working up an appetite on a Great Falls hike, consider stopping at this taqueria. About 14 outdoor seats are available for sipping margaritas and munching on tacos, including grilled fish, carnitas, and a standout veggie. Thursday brings $5 marg specials.
1734 N St., NW; 202-524-5202
Cooler weather has kept the crowds away from this gem of an urban garden, but expect that to change soon. A charming brick enclosure, century-old wisteria vines, and heat lamps for cooler days add to the cozy ambience. The Mediterranean-leaning menu is made for snacking or dining; also make sure to check out the list of unusual craft brews, wines, cocktails, and liqueurs including ouzo.
301 Water St., SE; 202-484-0660
Feel like sipping sangría before a Nats game? This Italian spot a few blocks from the ballpark is your spot for pitchers of white cucumber sangría with a water view. The 100-seat patio opens on nice days for the full menu of pastas, wood-roasted meats, and more.
1401 R St., NW; 202-234-0400
The latest addition to the 14th Street scene comes in the form of this dessert-and-cocktail bar, which opens on Saturday at 4 with a 45-seat sidewalk patio. Summer will bring an outdoor slushie stand, but in the meantime you can order a boozy, fruit-studded “riverstone slush” or, if the evening is chilly, an Irish coffee fortified with absinthe.
6939 Laurel Ave., Takoma Park; 301-270-3000
If you’re looking for an excuse to check out Jeff Black’s newish Takoma Park eatery, outdoor seating is a good one. The side patio is open with a number of communal tables for downing craft brews, oysters, and more. A live music lineup adds to the experience.
7940 Norfolk Ave., Bethesda; 240-245-7663
The name says it all at this downtown Bethesda spot, which debuted in January. Now you can take full advantage of one of the largest roof-deck bars around. Lounge at one of the tables, or catch the game on one of the flat-screens above the bar.
2446 18th St., NW; 202-232-7663
You can glimpse the Washington Monument in the distance at this sky-high roof bar (formerly the Reef). Rooftop beverages include pitchers of craft beer and house-made punch, such as the refreshing, rum-spiked Summer Wind with Campari, lemon, and mint. You’ll also find chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley’s lineup of house-made sausages, skewered meats and prawns, and a pretzel hot fudge sundae.
New Menus to Note
3815 Georgia Ave., NW; 202-506-2080
The reopening of the patio brings a new cast of specials, which include $3 PBRs and half-price “royale with cheese” burgers topped with bacon and special sauce (typically $15) from 5:30 to 7:30 Monday through Thursday.
1155 14th St., NW; 202-379-4366
This Kimpton Hotel rooftop stunner opens on Friday with a new lineup from chef Jennifer Nguyen and barkeep Jon Harris. Look for Asian-inspired tacos filled with tamarind beef barbacoa and kimchee and drinks such as a gimlet with yuzu.
Front Porch at the Evening Star Cafe
2000 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria; 703-549-5051
You’ll still find old favorites like bourbon slushies, but chef Jim Jeffords expanded the menu to include eats like hushpuppies with harissa aïoli, pulled-pork sliders, and Polish street food (why not?) in the form of zapiekankas, French bread pizzas with a variety of toppings.
1940 11th St., NW; 202-332-9463
One of our favorite places to lounge and play bocce launches a new spring grill-and-cocktail menu with items such as a house-made chicken dog, a burger topped with basil aïoli and mozzarella, and grilled-mango Caipirinhas. A generous outdoor happy hour runs 5 to 7 daily.
When we first spoke with chef Aaron Silverman about his plans for Rose’s Luxury, one element he envisioned was a communal table for nightly family-style parties. Guests would pay a set price, and the kitchen would cook for them until they burst (or showed self-restraint, but c’mon, let’s be realistic). Plans shifted pre-opening, but Silverman’s vision never died; it was just put on hold until May, when the restaurant plans to open its private roof garden for reservation-only feasts.
The outdoor space is still in the final stages of construction, but once open it can be reserved two to three weeks in advance for eight to ten guests. The urban oasis belongs to you and your party for the entire evening; you can even choose what time to arrive. A dedicated server will ferry plates and drinks from the main restaurant to your communal table.
“It includes us cooking for you until you say ‘uncle,’” says Silverman, “some dishes from on the menu, some dishes from off the menu. But basically we’re just gonna cook for you until you are full.”
The cost is set at $125 per person, not including alcohol (Silverman estimates it’ll round out to $200 a head after booze, tax, and tip). He notes it’s “not an everyday thing, but not bad for once or twice a summer.” It’s also not bad for the ability to book a table at the ever-packed Rose’s and get fed to your heart’s (and stomach’s) content.
A reservation system will be set up online; the final details are still be ironed out, but stay tuned for more information. In the meantime those looking to dine al fresco can grab one of about ten seats on Rose’s front patio, opening Monday and serving the regular menu.
KFC has smartly tapped into Game of Thrones with its new advertisements. [Huffington Post] —Chris Campbell
This Week in Millennial Food Trends
Chick-fil-A wants to get a piece of that millennial market by paying more attention to grilled chicken and slightly less attention to its trademark bigotry. [Time] —Ben Freed
It’s Not Delivery, It’s Homemade
“I am here to say: You can make pizza at home.” Sam Sifton really wants you to break out the homemade dough. The good news: It’s pretty simple. [New York Times] —AS
When Life Hands You Lemons . . .
As a soon-to-be father, I think filming young kids eating lemons is pretty funny. [YouTube] —CC
By the Numbers
Members of Congress argue about prices of Big Macs and the contents of the McDonald’s Dollar Menu. Democracy is a many-splendored thing. [The Fix] —BF
This chart of the most popular fruit pies looks delicious, though 100-percent rhubarb (no need to sully it with strawberry) is all I need. [NPR] —CC
I’ve enjoyed this before, but now science itself approves of marinating beef with beer. [Pacific Standard] —CC
What happens when Mario Batali cooks dinner for comedians Kristen Wiig and Fred Armisen? Well, watch. [Eater National] —AS
Of Mice and Menus
New York’s Dominique Ansel Bakery—home of the cronut—was briefly closed by the New York City Department of Health after a reported mouse infestation. Unfortunately for polite society, the rodents were cleared out, the bakery reopened, and Dominique Ansel is now comparing himself to Rocky Balboa. [Grub Street] —BF
Alba Osteria launches a late-night menu
425 Eye St., NW; 202-733-4454
Night owls can visit the spacious bar at this Italian spot for the Five at Ten menu, starting Friday and running regularly on Friday and Saturday nights from 10 to 1. You’ll find $5 beers, wines, and house cocktails, small plates, and half-price pizzas such as the Capriciosa, topped with artichokes, pancetta, and fior di latte mozzarella.
The DNV Rooftop reopens
1155 14th St., NW; 202-379-4366
One of the best rooftop bars for sunbathing and stargazing in DC reopens on Friday with new menus. Zentan chef Jennifer Nguyen created a lineup of Asian-style tacos, and barkeep Jon Harris designed al fresco-friendly drinks including Vietnamese salted lemonades and a Japanese-style gimlet. Opening-day hours are from 4 to 1, with regular evening hours available online.
Ovvio Osteria offers gluten-free options
2727 Merrilee Dr., Merrifield; 703-573-2161
It’s easy to go wheat-free at this Merrifield Italian, thanks to a new menu. In addition to common gluten-free dishes such as salads, charcuterie, and risotto you’ll find a number of corn-based pastas and pizza crusts fashioned from rice flour, sun-dried tomatoes, and rosemary.
Red Light opens on 14th Street
1401 R St., NW; 202-234-0400
Hoping to hit a new spot this week? The latest addition to 14th Street soft-opens on Saturday at 4 with a limited dessert menu from former Komi pastry chef Robert Underwood. In addition, look for creative cocktails from brother mixologists Ari and Micah Wilder and a roomy patio for late-afternoon drinking and sunbathing.
Oyamel changes menus and extends its hours
401 Seventh St., NW; 202-628-1005
Those looking for late-night eats in Penn Quarter can head to Oyamel starting Thursday. Chef Colin King devised a post-dinner menu—handy for the many theater-goers in the neighborhood—with confit baby pig and seared mahi-mahi tacos, striped bass ceviche, homey pozole rojo, and more. The fare is offered from 10 to midnight Sunday through Wednesday and 11 to 2 Thursday through Saturday.
701 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-393-0701/3311 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-244-6750
Two eateries from restaurateur Ashok Bajaj launch Sunday dinner specials. Guests at 701 will find a weekly changing three-course menu ($35, or $55 with wine pairings), which you can linger over while listening to live jazz. Sample dishes include butternut soup with crispy Brussels sprouts and roasted steak with blue-cheese sabayon. Uptown at Ardeo, the rotating three-course menu includes a glass of wine ($40), and can be made vegetarian upon request. Look for dishes such as crab-topped deviled eggs and roast chicken with grilled ramps and spring garlic jus.
If you think finding a seat at Toki Underground or Rose’s Luxury is tough, you can bet a collaborative dinner between the restaurants’ chef/owners will be a sought-after reservation. Toki toque Erik Bruner-Yang and Rose’s Aaron Silverman are joining forces for a meal on April 16. The dinner is hosted in memory of chef Thang Le, who passed away in 2012, and will partially benefit the nonprofit Mission Excellence, an after-school program for inner-city youths.
The meal will be held at Toki Underground, where Le last cooked. The chefs have designed eight courses (see the menu below), with an optional beverage pairing. Reservations are $100 each, and can be made by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Better book soon.
The Second Annual Bel’le Dinner
nam prik oysters
nam khao crudo
congee | quinoa | pig’s tongue
homemade sourdough and fresh cheese
pork | prawn
roasted grapes | bamboo shoots
seven treasure sticky rice
oolong panna cotta