Pizza Vinoteca, a 100-seat pie joint, opened in Ballston Thursday with grilled pizzas, 36 wines by the glass, and a few high-tech twists. Also: Merlot-infused crust. [Washingtonian]
Spanish sandwich chain 100 Montaditos unveiled its third Washington location at the Yards. Other branches are located in Arlington and Bethesda.
Woodley Park's Open City debuted a branch on the National Cathedral grounds. The menu is smaller than at the original, with coffees, panini, and salads. [Eater DC]
&pizza, the local pie chain that’s offering customers free tattoos, launched its first Virginia location in the Springfield Shopping Center. This is the seventh in Washington.
One of Washington’s venerable restaurants, CityZen, closed its doors over the past weekend. Founding chef Eric Ziebold has moved on to open his own ventures in Mount Vernon Triangle, while the Mandarin Oriental Hotel is readying to reveal another dining concept in the space. [Washingtonian, Washington Post]
Chefs on the move
Rumors that former Palena chef/owner Frank Ruta is taking over the swanky Capella hotel’s Grill Room prove true. Tim Carman reports that the veteran chef starts in Georgetown January 1, along with former Palena pastry chef Aggie Chin. [Washington Post]
Longtime Bibiana chef Nick Stefanelli calls it quits at the Penn Quarter eatery to open his own Italian restaurant near Union Market. Taking his place: Jake Addeo, mostly recently of Trattoria Doppio Zero in Hong Kong, and a former cook at New York standouts Felia and Esca. [Washington Post]
Kapnos chef George Pagonis is back on Top Chef season 12. He was eliminated for a quick-fire mishap on the first episode, but cooked his way back into the competition. [Washingtonian]
Sam Kass, one of the most recognizable culinary faces at the White House, is stepping down after six years. The senior policy adviser on nutrition and executive director of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign is headed to New York to be with wife Alex Wagner, based there as an MSNBC host. [Politico]
James Horn, the wine and beverage director for Mike Isabella Concepts and a partner in the business, is also leaving DC for the Big Apple due to family reasons. [Eater DC]
A Harvard Business School professor goes to war with a family-run Chinese restaurant over $4 worth of food. [Boston.com] And the sick part is: this isn’t the first time [Grub Street] —Anna Spiegel
The 2014 Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog. “Yes, a hot chocolate pot. Because a fondue pot wasn’t useless enough.” [Deadspin] —AS
Vice launches "Bong Appetit," a series of videos showing a “cannabis-fueled culinary journey.” Surprisingly, the first episode focuses not on that guy in your building but on a 91-year-old grandmother. [Vice] —AS
The next “it” fat, according to the Grey Lady. A hint: It's not bacon or duck, and the “younger audience” loves it. [New York Times] —AS
'Tis the season for end-of-year roundups. Here are Lifehacker's best "food hacks" of 2014. [Lifehacker] —Michael Gaynor
Huh, who would've thought flying a drone in TGI Friday's was a bad idea? [Engadget] —MG
Ten insanely delicious-looking burgers inspired by ten cities: DC's not one of them, but ours would probably have Mumbo sauce and cost $19. [Gizmodo] —MG
For that very special ex/coworker/loud neighbor on your naughty list this year: these delicious-looking treats from Bold Bakery that say exactly what you want to but really shouldn't over e-mail. [Huffington Post] —Tanya Pai
This Week in Millennial Food Trends: In a frenzied attempt to recapture younger customers, McDonald’s is rolling out touchscreen systems that allow one to order customized burgers featuring decidedly un-McDonald’s elements like jalapeños, garlic sauce, and ciabatta rolls. You know those millennials and their ciabatta rolls. [USA Today] —Benjamin Freed
The Franchise Wars are heating up! Taco Bell plans to open 1,300 international locations by the end of 2023, just in time for when Sergeant John Spartan wakes up. [Bloomberg Businessweek] —BF
Ballston gets a new pizza joint on Thursday with the arrival of Pizza Vinoteca. The 100-seat join aims for an approachable price point—dishes under $19, wines at $10 and below—with a few fancy gadgets on the side, and special wine-infused pizza crusts. Here’s what you need to know.
The cooking method: Grilled to order, inspired by the Rhode Island tradition of making backyard pies. The restaurant needed a more high-tech device than a Weber to produce the thin-crust, rectangular pizzas—hence a custom-made contraption that employs 16 burners on the bottom to cook the crust, six infared versions above to melt the cheese, and three wood-smoking boxes filled with mesquite chips to impart a smoky flavor. The combination is intended to create a tasty balance of caramelization, char, and chew.
The crust: Wine-y. The 900-degree grilling method called for a heartier mix than the traditional flour and water, so the kitchen adds rye flour, barley malt, and a generous amount of Merlot to the mixture. The alcohol gets cooked off—so yes, the pies are kid-friendly—but leaves a reddish hue and a hint of flavor.
Toppings: “Classic” or “modern.” The menu, divided into those two categories, includes traditional pepperoni alongsides riffs such as nduja meatball (made with the spicy Calabrian spreadable salami), Brussels sprouts and ricotta, and mushrooms with goat cheese and leeks. A number of vegetarian varieties appear in both categories.
Other stuff: Eggplant Parm, grilled salmon. Pizza is the focus, but diners who want to skip the pies can get by with a concise list of appetizers, entrées, and sides.
The vino: Abundant. All 36 wines are offered by the glass, in both full- and half-pours. An argon-gas dispenser is employed to keep the varietals fresh and at a regulated temperature. The list includes a variety of lesser-known labels in an effort to keep prices at $10 and under, so there’s plenty of opportunity to experiment around the 30-seat circular bar.
More gadgets?: The original Pizza Vinoteca opened in New York City as a high-wired concept employing iPads for ordering, but founder Ari Malcom says the process was a “nightmare” when it came to customizing dishes due to taste or allergies (that location has since closed). The Ballston eatery operates like a typical sit-down restaurant, though there’s a chance the iPads may reappear as wine lists so guests can have excess to extensive information about the vino.
In the future: Delivery, and more area locations for Pizza Vinoteca. Malcom says he’s looking around Washington for another space for a version of the restaurant that will focus on takeout. Stay tuned.
Pizza Vinoteca. 800 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington; 703-567-1056. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
We had a feeling that talented Kapnos chef George Pagonis didn’t see the last of Top Chef season 12 when he was harshly eliminated in the first episode. Pagonis cooked his way back into the competition last night, thanks to a favorite Top Chef-ian twist: the episode where cheftestants who were previously told to pack their knives and go are brought back to the game.
Pagonis was able to beat out the cut competitors with a roasted rabbit dish. Tune in next Wednesday to see the DC toque back in action, and check out our Q&A with Pagonis for this thoughts on the season.
See also: Photos—3 Days With Mike Isabella
Making a turducken at home is tempting, but the actual process of stuffing a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey is a little daunting/confusing/unappetizing. Austin Fausett wants to help: The Trummer’s on Main chef hopes to demystify the holiday Frankenfood with a cooking demo on Monday, December 22, and two special turducken dinners.
The roast at Trummer’s isn’t your traditional avian clown-car with two deboned birds packed inside a third. Fausett took some inspiration from the turducken’s 19th-century forefather, the rôti sans pareil, or “roast without equal.” While you won’t find a “tiny warbler stuffed in a bunting, inserted in a lark, squeezed in a thrush, thrown in a quail,” and so forth, Fausett’s preparation is more classically French than the average poultry-bomb. The dish consists of a heritage turkey breast roulade filled with chicken thighs and duck foie gras mousse, garnished with fried chicken skins, truffled polenta, and hen of the woods mushrooms. So yes, still plenty decadent.
Those who want to try their hand at the three-bird-roll can sign up for the Monday-evening class, taught demo-style, where Fausett shows guests how to debone a turkey and make the dish over glasses of wine ($46 per person). The restaurant will serve turducken during dinner that evening, as well as on December 23.
Christmas Eve is fast approaching, and you'll find many more options for dining out than on Christmas Day. Whether you're looking for a casual meal off a regular dinner menu, a holiday special, or a prix-fixe experience, there's a little something for everyone.
Festive Regular Menus
5120 MacArthur Blvd., NW
This cozy Palisades spot offers a few holiday additions to the regular menu, including foie gras terrine, lobster cocktail, Dover sole with Champagne mousseline, and a yule log cake for dessert.
1601 14th St., NW
The 14th Street hotspot looks the festive part with plenty of trees, wreaths, and sparkling lights, but the á-la-carte menu is served per usual (note an earlier closing time at 9). You can still make things extra-special with an elaborate shellfish plateau and a bottle of bubbly.
2401 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
It's a special occasion every night at chef Robert Wiedmaier's newly renovated dining room, and Christmas Eve is no different. The regular tasting menu is offered; don't skip the classic boudin blanc with truffles.
1813 Columbia Rd., NW
This bustling neighborhood bistro always feels merry. Thankfully, the usual menu is on the table, so you can go casual with a great bacon cheeseburger or opt for more-elaborate beef bourguignon.
301 Water St., SE
The hearty Northern Italian fare at Michael White's eatery is sure to warm up a chilly night. The regular menu is served, with standouts like lasagna verde, seafood brodetto, and braised short ribs.
5455 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase
Christmas Eve can be served on the lighter side at this Japanese spot, which serves its typical variety of sushi, sashimi, and small plates such as seared lobster and scallop with creamy ponzu and smoked mussel miso soup.
1226 36th St., NW
One of Washington's most atmospheric restaurants always dresses up for the holidays, with plenty of decorations and a wood-burning fireplace. The regular menu takes a seasonal course, with butternut squash soup perked up with pomegranate, or fried oysters with caviar.
1625 I St., NW
Guests can order a set three-course menu from the blackboard for Christmas Eve ($60 per person) or go à-la-carte. Either way, complimentary popovers prevail.
1099 New York Ave., NW
While chef Fabio Trabocchi's more formal restaurants offer seafood feasts, diners can get a four-course menu of robust dishes from his native Le Marche at the more casual sibling ($85 per person; $55 with wine pairing).
1001 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Chef Michel Richard offers two menus for Christmas Eve: a three-course pre-theater option from 5 to 6:30 with dishes such as hamachi tartare and roasted veal loin ($55 per person), or a regular five-course tasting that adds items like lobster-and-apple risotto ($105 per person).
777 I St., NW
Carnivores can find the meaty equivalent of Feast of the Seven Fishes with Victor Albisu's Feast of the Seven Beasts. Venison ceviche, smoked calf brains, and many shanks await ($78 per person, available December 19 through Christmas Eve).
2275 L St., NW
Guests can pick between two tastings: a seasonal three-course with dishes like oyster and Champagne stew and duck with foie gras, or a seven-course seafood option ($65 and $95, respectively).
903 N St., NW
A wintry five-course menu is served at this Shaw neighborhood spot, with offerings including smoked egg with caviar, goose galantine, and hare with persimmons ($95 per person; $45 optional wine pairing).
2941 Fairview Park Dr., Falls Church
The prix-fixe menus begin early at 3:30, where the four-course offering is specially priced at $75 for dishes like lobster and scallops in puff pastry and roast pheasant breast. The price rises to $85 after 4:30, while the $25 children's menu remains the same.
Washington boasts its fair share of pricey patties, from the $30 lobster burger at Central to BLT Steak's $27 Kobe-beef-and-pastrami behemoth. Topping them all: the venison-and-foie gras burger masterminded by chef Sébastien Rondier at Decanter, the luxe St. Regis hotel's dining room. The deer-duck concoction clocks in at $39—the priciest à-la-carte item on the menu—making it the monetary heavyweight* of Washington's haute burger bracket.
The venison burger has been on the menu since the weather turned cool in October, replacing the equally unusual "calamari burger," made from ground squid, capers, and herbs. Rondier took inspiration from one of his favorite dishes, tournedos rossini—filet mignon topped with foie gras. Instead of beef, Decanter's six-ounce patty is fashioned from ground venison and Pennsylvania deer saddle that the kitchen cuts to a thicker consistency. The meat is then cooked to the guest's preferred temperature—rare to medium-rare is recommended—glazed with black-truffle jam, and decked with a two-ounce slice of seared Hudson Valley foie. All arrives atop an olive oil bun, alongside twice-fried potato wedges and quince chutney for spreading.
So does the expense scare off customers? Rondier says orders were slow to start, but in general the price is expected at the St. Regis; orders have risen to 25 to 35 burgers per week.
"It's a celebration burger," says Rondier. "It's something original."
Look at it this way: It's cheaper than celebrating with some of America's most expensive burgers (like the $5,000 Kobe beef Fleur Burger served with a bottle of 1995 Chateau Petrus), most of which live appropriately in Vegas.
*Certain BGR locations serve a $100,9 nine-pound burger designed for competitive eaters. But that one is free for anyone who finishes "without going to the bathroom," according to one employee, which disqualifies it in our eyes.
The Italian-American tradition of eating seafood on Christmas Eve stems from Catholic abstention of meat, but there's nothing limiting about the Feast of the Seven Fishes. The meal, typically a multi-course affair offering an ocean's worth of seafood, is a delicious holiday tradition regardless of religion or dietary principles.
Many Washington restaurants offer the dinner on Christmas Eve, and some serve it on multiple days throughout the month. Feast and enjoy.
3201 New Mexico Ave., NW
The ocean-inspired holiday menu lasts all month at Roberto Donna's eatery, and is also one of the most gently priced options of the bunch.
Details: Served now through December 24; $45 per person, minimum two people per table.
1100 New York Ave., NW
Chef Nick Stefanelli offers a creative take on the traditional feast at his swanky Italian spot, including plates of grilled eel with onion compote, black spaghetti with sea urchin, and cod with tomatoes, capers, and potatoes.
Details: Served December 24; $85 per person.
3251 Prospect St., NW
One of Georgetown's see-and-be-seen Italian eateries serves a Christmas Eve menu with seven kinds of fish, ranging from polenta-crusted cod to sea bream in white wine sauce.
Details: Served December 24; $95 per person.
1914 Ninth St., NW
Looking for a homey version of the feast? Try Dean Gold's Shaw spot, which offers a menu with "wedding soup of the sea," linguini and clams, shrimp scampi, and more. A limited à-la-carte offering is also available on Christmas Eve, and kids are welcome to order from a children's menu.
Details: Served December 18 through December 24; $49 per person ($59 on Christmas Eve).
601 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
The most luxurious feast of the seven fishes can be found at chef Fabio Trabocchi's upscale Italian, which offers seven courses such as oysters with Prosecco zabaliogne, scallop risotto, and halibut with porcini crema and truffles. Sister restaurant Fiola Mare also serves a Christmas Eve meal from the ocean, though not the traditional seven seafoods.
Details: Served December 24; $160 per person; additional wine pairing $80 to $110.
2201 14th St., NW
Once chef Mike Isabella's sandwich shop closes for the day, the cooks turn over to an evening tasting menu, which will be filled with fish on several dates this month (including Christmas Eve). Think roasted oysters, cioppino, and spaghetti with crab and uni.
Details: Served December 17 through 20 and 22 through 24; five courses for $65; optional beverage pairing $39.
1734 N St., NW
Chef Tony Conte's mid-December tasting menu is inspired by the oceanic feast, and focuses on Mediterranean and Italian preparations of East Coast seafood. Look for dishes like rice-crusted Chesapeake oysters and whole roasted Atlantic snapper, all of which can be eaten by the wood-burning fireplace.
Details: Served at dinner, December 16 through 23 (closed Christmas Eve and Day); $135 per person.
1401 T St., NW
This atmospheric neighborhood Italian serves up courses like ravioli with prawns and chickpeas, almond-and-herb-crusted halibut, and spaghetti with anchovies and mussels. Note that dinner goes late, 5 to 11.
Details: Served December 24; $85 per person.
1112 F St., NW
Head to this classic (and classy) downtown Italian on Christmas eve for a traditional seven-course feast, with dishes such as lobster risotto and Chilean sea bass acqua pazza.
Details: Served December 24; $105 per person.