Last fall, cocktail historian and Washingtonian Philip Greene published To Have and Have Another, a historical account and collection of drink recipes based on the life and work of Ernest Hemingway. It’s a fascinating look at how the author incorporated drinking into his prose, and offers Papa devotees a way to delve deeper into those hauntingly evocative scenes—by making the drinks as the characters might have enjoyed them.
You can catch Greene on Thursday, February 28, at the Watha T. Daniel-Shaw Neighborhood Library, where he’ll be talking about the book and signing copies (a volume is included in the $50 ticket price). There will also be an open bar with two cocktails based on Greene’s research. The event benefits the DC Public Library Foundation. See more details on the Museum of the American Cocktail’s website, and read on for our conversation with Greene about his research process and what Hemingway’s favorite Washington bar might be.
I hear you’re a descendent of Antoine Peychaud of Peychaud’s Bitters, the guy who supposedly invented the Sazerac. True?
In the ’90s my uncle gave me this very cursory family tree, and I ended up finding out that my great-great-grandmother’s name was Marie Louise Peychaud. [Marie Louise was a cousin of Antoine’s.] I sort of became an expert on Antoine. This really gave me the tour into cocktails and got me introduced to the people who run Tales of the Cocktail and the people who were putting together the Museum of the American Cocktail. It was really good timing.
And how did you get into Hemingway?
I’ve been a Hemingway buff since high school. For many years I would read Hemingway, and I would notice the drinks that were mentioned. In 1989 I read Islands in the Stream, and I noticed he was talking about a drink with fresh lime juice, coconut water, Angostura bitters, and gin. I was visiting my girlfriend at the time (now my wife)—her folks have a place down in Florida, and they had a coconut palm tree and a lime tree, and they had gin. I made the drink.
From that point on I just started collecting in my mind and my memory whenever I read a Hemingway book. You know, “Okay, The Sun Also Rises, what’s a Jack Rose?” And then I’d figure out how to make it. In 2008 I did a seminar at Tales of the Cocktail on the drinks of Ernest Hemingway and that made me think: Why not a book?
A little more than a year ago, Mark Kuller rather mysteriously announced his new venture—which I rather mysteriously made public in a series of weekend tweets. His third restaurant, Kuller said, would be a Southeast Asian place, and would join the bustling restaurant row of 14th Street, Northwest. Again partnering with chef Haidar Karoum, he would showcase street foods from Vietnam and Thailand in a casually stylish setting that would clearly establish the place as a sibling of Proof and Estadio, his two existing restaurants.
Too early for that, said Kuller, who, prior to opening Proof in 2007, had been a prominent Washington attorney, and long ago mastered the delicate art of withholding sensitive information until the time is propitious.
Well, yesterday Kuller decided the time was propitious.
The work-in-progress, scheduled for early summer, will be called Doi Moi.
Kuller, whose former law colleagues marveled at how fanatically prepared he was for cases, was ready for the inevitable first question—or rather, questions.
Is that dwa mwa?
“Doy Muuy,” Kuller says, acknowledging that the name is likely to be mangled, perhaps even by his eventual staff.
His hope, he says, is that it will lodge in the mind.
When Constantine Stavropoulos opened Tryst in Adams Morgan, there wasn’t a lot like it around here. Part restaurant, part bar, part coffee shop, part music venue—it was a hangout for beer and java nerds, but you didn’t have to be one to like it there. You could pop in for a latte on your way to work or settle in with your laptop and stay all day. Industry types shared space on the worn velvet couch with wonks powering through policy publications. There was a communal table made of rough-hewn wood long before communal tables made of rough-hewn wood were a thing.
Actress Angela Kinsey may not be a seafood fan on The Office--her stern character, Angela Martin, once instructed Andy against taking her anywhere with patios, vegetables, and fish--but in real life, the ocean-loving star wants to know all about the fin-fare she's consuming. We caught up with Kinsey this morning on the Hill, where she's taking a short break from life in Los Angeles to join Oceana and local chef-author-advocate Barton Seaver in a campaign against seafood fraud.
We're no strangers to edible artifice in Washington: When a restaurant serves "Maryland crabcakes" at a premium while using cheaper Venezuelan meat, that's seafood fraud (and a pretty widespread heist). At best, you and the local fishermen are getting ripped off. Worse, certain impostor products can make you sick. Ever felt queasy after downing a few orders of "white tuna" sushi? You may have eaten escolar, a less-expensive fish that certain restaurants swap out for tuna, knowingly and not. It's tasty in small doses, but in larger quantities you'll understand the nickname "Ex-Lax fish."
California cuisine luminary Alice Waters heads to DC this month. Photograph by Brigitte Lacombe.
At her Berkeley, California, restaurant Chez Panisse, Alice Waters has famously served diners a raw, unpeeled peach for dessert, saying the fruit was perfect and therefore impossible to improve upon. This devotion to seasonal, local, organic produce evolved into a philanthropic and political passion—she is an outspoken advocate for universal access to healthy organic food, reform in school lunches, and farmers’ rights.
Later this month, Waters will come to Washington for Sunday Night Suppers, an annual event she organizes with Joan Nathan and José Andrés in which 20 chefs, both local and far-flung, cook dinner for groups of 15 to 40 people at Washington homes. At $550, the dinners don’t come cheap—but then again, says Waters, you might just wind up seated next to a Supreme Court justice.
We recently chatted with the chef, who shared her thoughts on unexpected dinner guests, her charitable contributions, and what she loves about Washington.
“This is not classic food,” says Mike Isabella, pointing to a draft of the Bandolero menu. “The tradition is there, but then it’s the Mike Isabella touch.”
A few days before Living Social announced a new pop-up project that will preview the menu at Isabella’s forthcoming Mexican restaurant in Georgetown, the Graffiato chef had just returned from an eating trip to San Francisco—the final leg of a three-city tour designed to familiarize himself with the offerings at the best Mexican eateries around the country. In between these jaunts, he’s been poring over the Mexican cookbook canon, “from Diana Kennedy, the classic, to Rick Bayless and some of the modern stuff.” The Bandolero menu has yet to be finalized—Isabella says he’ll likely make tweaks up until two weeks from the opening—but the chef seems to have nailed down the lion’s share of the dishes.
Here’s the scoop on what to expect:
As far as food writers are concerned, Melissa Clark is living the dream. She is a New York Times columnist, a culinary mag contributor, and the author of more than 30 cookbooks, including collaborations with top toques like Daniel Boulud and White House pastry chef Bill Yosses.
Clark recently visited Washington to promote her latest work, Cook This Now, a personal record of seasonal recipes she compiled over a year of making her favorite meals for her husband and three-year-old daughter. We caught up with her at KramerBooks & Afterwords Cafe, where she dished about the essentials of good cookbook writing, favorite New Year’s Eve dishes, and which local chef whips up a sauce good enough to be licked off a shoe.
You’ve worked on so many cookbooks. What do you think is essential to writing a good one?
I always say there are so many different paths to dinner. So what I do in this book—which I probably will do in anything I write from now on, really—is to break it down: all the other ways the dinner could have gone. I could have done this if I had this, substituted this, etc. I show people all the roads not taken. I love the roads not taken.
Celebrity chef Eric Ripert is known for his million-dollar smile, and a bidder at last year's Capitol Food Fight was willing to shell out $10,000 for his presence at a dinner held yesterday (the money went to DC Central Kitchen). The Avec Eric star's last trip to Washington—where he oversees Westend Bistro in the downtown DC Ritz-Carlton—involved a whirlwind dining tour with stops at the Source, Graffiato, Zaytinya, Citronelle, and Georgetown stalwart Bistro Francais ("It has this authentic feeling, like it has a soul."), but don't expect too many Ripert-sightings this time around; minus a stroll or two in Georgetown, Ripert says this trip is all business.
We caught up with Ripert as he was taking a break from kitchen rounds. Still wearing a crisp white chef’s coat that bears the name of his New York flagship, Le Bernardin—and his signature string of Tibetan prayer beads—he submitted to our Either/Or questionnaire.
Half-smoke or New York City dirty-water dog?
"Half-smoke—I've been to Ben's."
Who would you press the mute button on—Gordon Ramsey or Elia Aboumrad?
"Can I have a wild card for that? I don't wish anyone something bad like that. But if I'm watching TV, Gordon is out."
The best way to kill a lobster—steaming or knife through the head?
"A 20-inch chef knife."
Major League Eating comes to Washington this weekend with the World Chili Eating Competition, which will be held on Sunday at 12:35 as part of the Taste of DC festival. Ben's Chili Bowl is cooking up more than 30 gallons of its spicy beef chili, which the top competitors will have six minutes to devour by the gallon. The person that downs the most gets a $1,250 prize.
We checked in with Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas, the International Federation of Competitive Eating's highest ranked female, and fifth best eater overall. You wouldn't guess by looking at Thomas that the 105 pound 44 year-old could take down 11 pounds of cheesecake in nine minutes, but she has garnered some of the most prized titles in competitive eating, including winning the female division of the most recent Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Championship. She chatted with us about her job at Burger King, Rocky Mountain oysters, and her goal to eat 15 pounds of Ben's chili.
Yesterday, we interviewed her toughest competition, Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, currently the highest ranked Major League Eater.
Ferran Adrià —the revolutionary chef behind the recently closed El Bulli in Roses, Spain —stopped in Washington yesterday to promote his first-ever home cooking book, The Family Meal, and to give a talk with José Andrés, the DC-based small plates king who got his start in Adrià's kitchen.
"I cannot tell you how I feel having a home right here in this city—this community has given me so much. If I could give back a little bit, it is to have Ferran here in this city," Andrés said as he introduced his mentor to the stage at Lisner Auditorium.
Andrés—who is known for stealing the show with jovial outbursts—was unusually quiet as Adrià discussed the origins of cuisine and addressed perhaps his most frequently asked question of late: why close a such wildly popular restaurant?
"The system doesn't allow us to be successful for too many years," Adrià told the audience. "Robert De Niro can't win five Oscars—and one has to understand that's how the world works. We knew there would be a time to step down because we've been winning Oscars for 15 years."
The restaurant, which shuttered two months ago, will become the El Bulli Foundation, a creative center slated to open in 2014. The sustainably-built campus will host an archive, museum, and kitchen for chefs and thinkers to come together.
"We were reaching the point of routine," Adrià said of El Bulli. "'Routine' doesn't mean monotony, routine is knowing what's going to happen before it happens. Probably we achieved something that was almost perfect … but the worst enemy for creativity is routine."
We caught up with the Pepsi-sipping, jeans-wearing chef at Westend Bistro to discuss—with the help of a translator—traveling, Andrés's early years, and his least favorite interview question.
Where are you eating in Washington?
“Wherever José Andrés takes me. He's one of my best friends.”
Do you have a take on the DC dining scene from either talking to José or your visits here?
“I've been a total for or five times, and obviously I've eaten at wonderful places. But it would be frivolous to give an opinion because I don't know it that well, and I end up being guided by José. To be able to give an opinion you need to experience the restaurants. If there are 2,000 restaurants in Washington, if you have at least 20 percent good restaurants, that's a good amount.”
How is it coming here and seeing your influence on Andrés and his restaurants?
“I'm quite proud of it because José is one of the best ambassadors of El Bulli, and portrays the spirit of El Bulli best.”
Do you have any early memories of working with José?
“That was 23 years ago! So much has happened since that I can barely remember. José has a better memory. I have a very short-term memory. But it was a very different time. At that time there were only seven or eight people in the kitchen.”
How would you characterize him as a chef?
“He's a very complete cook because on the one hand he's a very creative cook, and on the other hand he's an excellent business manager. That's very rare to find those two things in one person. He's capable of doing avant garde cuisine, Chinese cuisine, Mexican cuisine. Obviously I see him in a different way than most people. On my first trip to Washington, José wasn't a famous person and people didn't know him well. For me, he's still that same person.”
When you travel, do you look for more avant-garde eating experiences, or something more like a family meal?
“I basically look for good food. If you're eating seafood every day you'll end up getting bored by it, and if you're eating pizza every day you'll end up getting bored by it.”
I read that you don't get the chance to cook at home often. Will you now that El Bulli is closed?
“One of the luxuries I have in life is to eat out, so why stay in and eat at home? It's not about eating at $200 restaurants every day, but I prefer eating out more than owning a car.”
Your two favorite luxuries are travel and food. Do you have any trips or meals you're looking forward to?
“Those are the only two. I've been to China this summer, and I'm very excited to go back again to get to know more about Chinese cuisine. The other places that are exciting for me are Latin America: Peru, Mexico, and Brazil are doing very exciting things. I think we'll see many exciting developments coming from that part of the world.”
You said in an interview that it's important to ask yourself questions every day. What are you currently asking?
“Lately I've been intrigued about the way we eat, more than the actual dishes or food itself. I'm interested in avant garde, creative cuisine, but I'm interested in cooking and eating in general. So I ask myself often: What is the best time to eat? What is the best number of diners at a table? The way in which we eat, whether we use our hands, a fork, chopsticks, things like that.”
You've done have many, many interviews. Which question do you least like getting?
“I get bored by telling people how I started off as a chef. It's all on the internet.”