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From gazpacho to deviled eggs, the tastiest bites of the evening. By Anna Spiegel
Pearl Dive’s oysters on the half-shell were a hit. Photograph by Diane Rice.

The Best of Washington is always one of the biggest parties of the year for the restaurant industry, bringing more than 70 top-tier restaurants and big-name chefs to the National Building Museum. Wednesday night’s sold-out bash boasted some of the best food and drinks we’ve seen yet (and it seemed like the party people agreed, based on all the fabulous tweets and photos from the event). Like our Best of Washington feature, the party is a reminder of how vibrant and full of talent our city and its food scene have become. Whether you’re already plotting an approach for next year or looking to head out to dinner this weekend, here are some of our favorite dishes and drinks from last night.

Best (of many) gazpachos

The party’s theme revolved around vintage travel—think hosts dressed as flight attendants and a steamer trunk centerpiece—and while there were no guidelines for food, one dish was replicated by many: gazpacho. Chefs dished up many renditions on the cold soup, from watermelon-flavored riffs at Boqueria to a creamy, semi-sweet coconut take by Graffiato. Our two favorites leaned more classic: BlackSalt’s tomato gazpacho topped with panzanella salad, and a smooth, silky version drizzled with olive oil from Estadio.

Best (of many) crudo dishes

Raw and lightly cured fish popped up almost as much as gazpacho. We loved light and refreshing bites, such as simple tuna sashimi with soy-yuzu vinaigrette by Majestic, Pearl Dive’s briny, freshly shucked oysters (and the crab-shrimp salsa scooped onto corn chips), and Westend Bistro’s bright scallop and bass ceviche with yuzu sorbet. Also of note in the raw meat category: a boldly flavored lamb tartare with smoked egg yolk by Ripple.

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Posted at 03:15 PM/ET, 07/18/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
And to celebrate, “Washingtonian” staffers are sharing where they get their holey pastry fix. By Tanya Pai
The bacon-maple-glazed doughnut from Home Farm Store in Middleburg. Photograph by Carol Joynt.

Seems like every food has its national day—or as with the case of burgers, its own month. But when we heard June 1 was National Doughnut Day, it released an unexpected flood of nostalgia for that sticky-sweet treat. So we asked Washingtonian staffers to share where they find their favorite doughnuts. Some are local, some are, sadly for our taste buds, not—but all are guaranteed delicious. Read on to discover their tales of deep-fried, caramel-drizzled, chocolate-frosted happiness.

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Posted at 05:40 PM/ET, 05/31/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
What's hot and what's not in the region's dining. By Todd Kliman, Rina Rapuano

Singapore slaw at Zentan. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Bangkok 54
Meat eaters who vow never to let tofu touch their lips might revise their stance here. The spicy tofu with basil is one of the best tofu dishes we’ve tried in the area. The pressed bean curd is coated with chilies, slow-roasted to concentrate the flavors, then scattered with fried basil leaves that lend a subtle crunch and perfume. Its excellence is matched by a delicate red curry that brings together shrimp, butternut squash, and toasted cashews. Not everything on the menu sings so beautifully, but the occasional misstep is offset by the handsome room, gracious service, and surprisingly good wine list. -Todd Kliman

Black’s Bar & Kitchen
You still can enjoy well-cooked fish and a mean plate of fried chicken, but Jeff and Barbara Black’s sleek Modern American dining room could use more attention. One visit revealed a side order of runny mac and cheese decidedly lacking in, well, cheese. À la carte Brussels sprouts were doused in black pepper, and the scallops’ accompaniments—sautéed spinach and garlic mashed potatoes—were dull. Sides matter, especially at a place where many dishes don’t come with any. -Rina Rapuano

Zentan
This hotel restaurant from Toronto-based chef Susur Lee, of Top Chef Masters fame, still has its charms—friendly servers, generous portions, and good seasonal additions such as the ham-and-jam plate, an appetizer of Mangalitsa ham with house-made pickles and black-currant jam. But a Sunday visit disappointed with its abbreviated menu and B team in the kitchen. XO shrimp and scallops arrived without the promised spicy kick and tasted overcooked. A lobster/eel/scallop sushi roll lacked its usual precision in both flavors and texture. Desserts remain a weak spot—ice cream was freezer-burned—and cocktails were off balance. Perhaps more oversight from the intense Chef Lee is in order. -Rina Rapuano

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

Posted at 01:52 PM/ET, 02/16/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
Buster's Seafood sells the lightly salty juice for $5 a pint. By Anna Spiegel

Photograph courtesy of Flickr user quinn.anya.

Clam juice is an easy way to add a briny kick to seafood dishes, but the brands at supermarkets tend to be packed with preservatives and added salt. A better alternative: fresh clam juice from Virginia waterman Jimmy Hogge, who with his wife, Paige, runs Buster’s Seafood at local farmers markets.

Hogge has fished the Chesapeake for 54 years but only recently discovered he could sell the liquid that’s released when he cracks open the littlenecks he harvests in Mobjack Bay. The liquor—$5 a pint—is clear and lightly salty, with the flavor of just-shucked clams. The juice keeps only three to five days, but there are many ways to use it. We’ve added it to a garlicky pot of steamed mussels for extra dipping broth, mixed it in with white wine for Italian clam sauce and with cream for New England chowder, and even thrown it into a spicy Bloody Mary in place of Clamato.

Available October through March on Saturday at the Arlington Farmers Market (N. Courthouse Rd. and N. 14th St.) and Sunday at the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market (20th St. and Massachusetts Ave., NW). May through October, it’s available Thursday at the FreshFarm market near the White House (Vermont Ave. between H and I sts., NW).

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

Posted at 01:41 PM/ET, 02/08/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
A firm, mozzarella-like cheese that just needs a quick pan fry. By Anna Spiegel

Photograph by Erik Ueke.

If you work in a restaurant kitchen, the last thing you want to do when you get home is slave over another stove. I discovered Carr Valley Bread Cheese when I last cooked in a restaurant, and it was a godsend. All the firm, mozzarella-like cheese needs is a quick pan fry—or 30 seconds in the microwave—and you have a warm, melty block that tastes like a homey grilled cheese sandwich.

The Wisconsin cheese is a twist on a Finnish product, juustoleipä. Carr Valley bakes its version, giving it a nutty brown surface that crisps nicely in a skillet. The mild, sweet-salty flavor takes well to a dab of apricot jam, a drizzle of honey, or a dunk in fresh marinara. Or you could go the post-restaurant-shift route: Unwrap, zap, and enjoy with a cold brew.

Carr Valley Bread Cheese, $8.40 a pound, is available at Whole Foods and at carrvalleycheese.com.

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

Posted at 01:35 PM/ET, 02/08/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
Food and wine editor Todd Kliman recalls his most memorable meals of the past year. By Todd Kliman

Tacos from R&R Taqueria, one of 2011's most memorable meals. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

1) When my son Jesse was born, nearly four years ago, I went out and picked up sushi from the excellent Joss in Annapolis (along with a bottle of wine), and we ate it in the hospital that first night. Four weeks ago, I had the exact same thought when my second son was born. Turns out Joss now delivers, and we feasted on three bags’ worth (what can I say? I’ve got an inner Jewish mother. “Eat, eat . . . ”) of sashimi, sushi, and rolls at the birth center as we held and kissed and got to know our new baby. The wonderful nurse, Katya, turned out to be a sushi lover, and in between her rounds I popped pieces of yellowtail into her mouth. I’m telling you: Jewish mother.

2) “What’s going on?” I asked the young sommelier one night at a French restaurant, my attention diverted by a happy commotion in the dining room: taking of pictures, getting of autographs. “That’s the first African-American to win a Grammy,” he said. I thought for a moment. “You mean Harry Belafonte?” I said. “Uh, I believe that’s the name, yes. Mr. Belafonte,” he replied. I was with my mother and, in a moment of inspiration, asked him if he would tell “Mr. Belafonte” that he had an 84-year-old admirer in the room. Several minutes later, the man who bankrolled Martin Luther King Jr. through the ’60s walked toward the table. My mom had slid into the upholstered booth with difficulty, but now it was as if she were on rollers—she zoomed over to meet him. Belafonte was the epitome of class and grace, as nice and as warm as could be, posing for pictures and even allowing himself to be kissed. “I’m the same age as you,” he said to my mother. By which point she was covered in tears.

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Posted at 01:32 PM/ET, 12/20/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()
From bourbon slushies to malted-milk-ball ice gelato, here are our favorite ways to cool down when the temperature breaks 100.

A slushie at Estadio, a staff favorite. Photograph by Stacy Zarin-Goldberg

When it comes to staying cool, the Washingtonian staff knocks back cocktails, scarfs down frozen yogurt, and orders all drinks over ice. The following roundup is a highly subjective list of some of the best ways to beat the heat in Washington.

Cocktails at Estadio: Nearly every Washingtonian editor and writer is a fan of mixologist Adam Bernbach's concoctions at this Logan Circle Spanish-tapas joint. Some of our favorites include the bourbon slushie, gin and tonic, Moscatel-sherry float, the coconut-lime-lemongrass slushie, and a sparkling drink with tequila, Cava, rosemary, and grapefruit.

Dolcezza sorbetto: Nearly any flavor will do at these three Argentine-gelato shops (Dupont Circle, Georgetown, Bethesda), but we like to go for the most seasonal choices, or a classic standby: lemon.

Chocolate fro-yo from Pinkberry: Top it with brownie bites and chocolate chips. It tastes just like Ben & Jerry's, but you can absolutely convince yourself it's healthy because it's yogurt. 

Salted-caramel-and-praline ice cream at Comet Ping Pong: A super-salty version of a flavor that's now as ubiquitous as molten cake. If you want something for late-night snacking, look for a pint from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, the excellent Columbus, Ohio-based brand that Whole Foods is now selling.

Seasonal-fruit concrete at Shake Shack: This burger joint offers ultra-thick, Midwestern-style frozen custard, and a variety of mix-ins turns it into a "concrete." While the chocolate-mint behemoth called the Washington Monument is a sugar bomb, the vanilla custard layered with crispy crepe shards and fruit—it was vanilla-poached rhubarb when we had it—isn't nearly as cloying. 

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Posted at 10:38 AM/ET, 07/22/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()
Washington's tastiest doughnuts can be found in unlikely places, from a wine shop to a pizza joint. By Ann Limpert

Montgomery Donuts from the pizza shop Slice N Dice. Photograph by Scott Suchman

It’s a weekend morning—do you know where your doughnut is? Here are our six favorite places for the wake-up treat.

Baked & Wired. Doughnuts are shaped like airy sugar-rolled muffins, both plain and jelly-filled, at this bakeshop. We’re not the only fans: They’re available only on Tuesday and Friday and often sell out by late morning.

Cork Market & Tasting Room. Wine gets most of the attention at this gourmet shop, but on Sunday fried-to-order doughnuts deserve the spotlight.

La Flor de Puebla (6300 Kenilworth Ave., Riverdale, 301-699-8708; 5024 Edmonston Rd., Hyattsville, 301-699-8658; 10470 Dumfries St., Manassas, 703-257-2054). Rich, eggy cream fills the powdered-sugar-sprinkled puffs called bolas de Berlin at this Mexican bakery.

Shilla Bakery (Fairfax, 703-352-1446; Annandale, 703-333-2001; Centreville, 703-266-6001; Rockville, 301-217-0003). At this Korean bakery, you can fill your basket with red- and white-bean-stuffed doughnuts and rice twists, but it’s the crullers that are top-notch.

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Posted at 02:20 PM/ET, 06/10/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()
Deviled eggs have moved from the picnic blanket to the white tablecloth. Here are our eight favorite places to find them. By Ann Limpert

Downtown DC’s Acadiana serves creatively topped deviled eggs. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Acadiana. Different toppings—crab ravigote, Choupique caviar, and bacon—make this trio of halves hard to share.

Firefly. The Dijon-mustard-and-paprika-whipped yolks are church-supper classic, but caper powder and fried garlic make this bar snack stand out. (We have the recipe here.)

Food Matters. A heavy dose of smoked paprika fires up the middles of these five bites.

Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food. Overstuffed eggs get crunch from chopped pecans and—even better—sugared bacon.

Palena Cafe. The newly expanded cafe is best known for its burger, but Frank Ruta’s traditional deviled eggs are terrific, too.

Ray’s the Classics and Ray’s the Steaks. Leave it to meat master Michael Landrum to load up hollowed egg whites with steak tartare.

2 Amys. These curry-spiced eggs with salsa verde have been on the menu at Peter Pastan’s Neapolitan-pizza restaurant since day one. (We have the recipe here.)

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Posted at 09:19 AM/ET, 05/20/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()
A chocolate dessert is the quintessential Valentine's Day treat. We came up with a list of our favorites around Washington. By Todd Kliman, Ann Limpert, Kate Nerenberg, Rina Rapuano

• Brownie sundae at Addie's
• Texas sheet cake cupcake at Baked and Wired
• House-made Oreos at Bayou Bakery
• Chocolate bombe at Bibiana
• Cookies-and-confections plate at Birch & Barley
• Coconut candy bar at Bourbon Steak
• Chocolate cake at Buck's Fishing & Camping

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Posted at 07:55 AM/ET, 02/11/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()