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Where to find creamy frozen custard, tasty tacos, and excellent charcuterie By Ann Limpert, Kate Nerenberg
Pizzaiolo Cafe & Bar is a no-frills neighborhood spot that turns out delicious pies.

Pizzaiolo Café & Bar

Del Ray’s neighborhood pizza joint turns out the same pies that made a success of its older sibling, Café Pizzaiolo in Crystal City. There’s the thin but sturdy Neapolitan version, its crust infused with olive oil, and the more substantial New York style made with a whisper of sourdough. The options with fewer toppings keep the crusts from wilting; the basic Caprese and the Diavala with sausage and peppers are good bets. Families should stake out a table in the 60-seat dining room—stocked with a collection of board games—while other customers can take advantage of a smaller bar area with flat-screen TVs and a Tuesday two-for-one pizza deal.

3112 Mount Vernon Ave.; 703-837-0666. Pizzas $12.99 to $19.50, pasta and panini $7.99 to $14.95.

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Posted at 10:15 AM/ET, 01/27/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()
You can get the makings of a pretty great meal in Mount Vernon Avenue's impressive selection of gourmet food shops. By Ann Limpert, Kate Nerenberg

Steve Gatward’s butcher shop, Let’s Meat on the Avenue, sells some of the region’s highest-quality cuts of meat.

The nearly 2,000 domestic and imported bottles lining the shelves at Planet Wine (2004 Mount Vernon Ave.; 703-549-3444) include 60 red and white options for less than $15 as well as a section devoted to Virginia labels. Round out a party spread with charcuterie from Red Apron—a fellow member of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group—as well as artisanal cheeses.

There are lots of ways to indulge a sweet tooth at ACKC Cocoa Bar (2003-A Mount Vernon Ave.; 703-635-7917), where truffles—made at the store’s DC location—are packed with fillings both elegant (Provençal lavender with pistachios and almond with amaretto) and unusual (Brie with black sesame seeds). Other gift-worthy treats include chocolate-dipped Oreos, maple-caramel popcorn, and fudge.

The long cheese case at Cheesetique (2411 Mount Vernon Ave.; 703-706-5300) holds more than 200 varieties—each neatly labeled with provenance, milk type, and flavor profile—and shelves are packed with anything you’d ever want to pair with them.

One of the area’s best butcher shops is just down the street. At Let’s Meat on the Avenue (2403 Mount Vernon Ave.; 703-836-6328), Steve Gatward procures a good range of carefully raised meats, such as free-range veal, hormone-free tri-tip steak, and freshly cut bacon. The shop makes its own sausage, and if you need a whole pig for spit roasting, Gatward will special-order it.

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Posted at 10:09 AM/ET, 01/27/2011 | Permalink | Comments ()

The spinach-and-olive tian at Bistro Provence, one of our favorite dishes of the year. Photograph by Scott Suchman
Our annual 100 Very Best Restaurants issue just hit newsstands last week, and it’s the culmination of a year’s worth of eating. Even after hundreds of meals, miles of crisscrossing the region, and too many calories to count, there are some dishes we can’t stop thinking about. Because we ranked the area’s 40 top restaurants, we’ve chosen to highlight 40 plates (plus a few extra desserts); they’re listed in alphabetical order according to the restaurant.

1. Chanterelle mushrooms and summer corn at Bar Pilar.
2. Buffalo-milk ricotta with rose honey and almonds at Bibiana.
3. Veal sweetbreads with celery-root mousseline and diced veal tongue at Bistro Bis.
4. Spinach-and-olive tian at Bistro Provence.
5. Seared Nantucket Bay scallops with root vegetables and date purée at Blue Duck Tavern.
6. Prime-steak burger with cheddar at Bourbon Steak.
7. Shrimp and roast-beef po’boys at the Cajun Experience.
8. Corned-beef sandwich at Central.
9. Fried chicken with curried lentils at Circle Bistro.
10. Peekytoe-crab tart at Citronelle.

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Posted at 10:50 AM/ET, 12/27/2010 | Permalink | Comments ()
Bourbon Steak's compressed watermelon with feta and lardo was one of our favorite dishes of the night. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

At our Best of Washington party last night, restaurants pulled out all the stops, serving everything from octopus carpaccio (2941) to lobster salad (the Palm) to an Indian spin on Scotch eggs (Rasika). While we were very impressed with the entire spread, some dishes really shined. Here’s a roundup of our favorites from the night.

>>For a slideshow of more dishes from the night, click here.

Best version of a low-brow dish by a high-brow restaurant: Citronelle’s fried chicken rounds with a Dijon dressing were a far cry from Mickey D’s nuggets with honey-mustard sauce.

Best use of summer corn: Chilled Silver Queen-corn soup with crab, tarragon oil, and crispy tarragon leaves from Charlie Palmer Steak.

Best way to beat the heat: Masa 14’s mixture of St. Germain elderflower liqueur, lemon/basil simple syrup, ginger liqueur, and Dos Equis beer.

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Posted at 02:41 PM/ET, 07/26/2010 | Permalink | Comments ()
Best Of: While many ice-cream stands have good shakes, having one alongside a burger is a hot-weather treat. Here are our favorite diner shakes. By Garrett M. Graff

Good Stuff Eatery’s tasty toasted-marshmallow shake.

>>To build up an appetite for the Best of Washington party, we're reading through our July issue. Up today? Our favorite milkshakes:

 

Toasted-marshmallow shake at Good Stuff Eatery. The most adventurous of the region’s milkshakes, the one from this Capitol Hill burger joint comes with a marshmallow on top.

Peppermint shake at Ted’s Bulletin. There’s something almost medicinal—in a good way—about the bracing mint in this Capitol Hill diner’s shake. Feeling edgy? Get the spiked White Russian.

Chocolate shake at Chick-fil-A. The fast-food chain’s “hand-spun” shakes will please any milkshake connoisseur.

Vanilla shake at the Tombs. This Georgetown bar has great summer foods—such as its tomato salad—but nothing is as refreshing as the oversize vanilla shake. It’s served with a spoon.

Chocolate shake at the Silver Diner. Ordering a shake at this 1950s-themed area chain—with tabletop jukeboxes—will make you feel as if you’ve come from a sock hop.

Flavor of the month at BGR the Burger Joint. Each month, this local chain offers a seasonal shake. May’s Chocolate-Covered Strawberries was excellent, although January’s Coffee and Doughnuts was better in theory than reality.

 

 

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Posted at 08:34 AM/ET, 07/20/2010 | Permalink | Comments ()
We can't get enough of chef Andrew Kitko's indulgent bowl of Virginia oysters and sweet vegetables. By Rina Rapuano

The flavors of chef Andrew Kitko's oyster pan roast were inspired by his New England childhood. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

The simple description on the menu at Cedar, a subterranean Penn Quarter dining room, didn’t prepare us for what arrived at the table—a luscious stew of meaty oysters, which usually hail from Virginia’s James or Rappahannock River, plus leeks and sweet Jerusalem artichokes. Oh, and one more thing: “I don’t really want to tell you how much butter I put in it,” chef Andrew Kitko laughs. The recipe was inspired by the more traditional pan roast served at the Oyster Bar in New York’s Grand Central Terminal as well as flavors from Kitko’s New England upbringing. But we’re pretty sure this beats anything from his Connecticut childhood.

This article appeared in the April, 2010 issue of The Washingtonian.

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Posted at 01:11 PM/ET, 05/20/2010 | Permalink | Comments ()
You don't have to jump the pond to find tea fit for a queen. We found delicious handmade blends right in downtown DC. By Todd Kliman

Tea takes a back seat at many restaurants, and considering the way most places regard tea service, it’s little wonder. Who wants a cup of bagged Constant Comment you can have at home? But Ris, chef Ris Lacoste’s new West End restaurant, has made tea a point of pride by investing in handmade blends from Laurie Bell and her excellent Great Falls Tea Garden.

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Posted at 07:44 AM/ET, 05/12/2010 | Permalink | Comments ()
Pining for a sour pickle like the kind you can find at Jewish delis in Manhattan? We found a good version, available at some Washington farmers markets. By Ann Limpert
Oh! Pickles spears are worthy of New York delis.

A great deli pickle—the kind that lands on the table at places like Katz’s in New York City—isn’t easy to come by here, especially in a grocery-store aisle. So Arondo Holmes, a coffee vendor who grew up making homemade pickles with his mom in Northern Virginia, set out to elevate Washington’s spears. His Oh! Pickles creations are now a presence at local farmers markets. Half sours and—our favorites—the ones simply called sours are the most Manhattan-like, but Holmes says upstate New Yorkers go for red-hots, made with a fiery brine that lives up to its name. Most popular are his mom’s pickled beets—“the first thing I sell and the last thing I sell,” Holmes says. Now all we need is some worthy pastrami.

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Posted at 07:39 AM/ET, 05/12/2010 | Permalink | Comments ()

A happy-hour snack worth craving: meatballs from Facci. Photograph by Chris Leaman.
Italian food may be the current “it” cuisine, but that doesn’t mean there are a lot of great dishes commanding our attention. Facci, a new restaurant and wine bar in Laurel (7530 Montpelier Rd.; 301-604-5555) that specializes in wood-fired pizzas, is a notable exception—though not for its pies. Seven bucks ($3.50 during happy hour, from 5 to 7) buys a heaping pile of the tenderest, most flavorful meatballs we’ve had in years, its generous blanket of zesty marinara all but spilling over the sides of a two-handled silver crock. You may want seconds.

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Posted at 12:42 PM/ET, 04/06/2010 | Permalink | Comments ()

At the downtown DC gastropub Againn, the most popular dessert is the creamy banoffee pie, a confection made with graham-cracker crumble, chocolate ganache, caramelized milk, and sliced bananas (the name is a hybrid of “banana” and “toffee”). At one reader’s request, we asked chef Wes Morton to share his recipe, which he says is “the British answer to banana-cream pie.” Instead of making it into a classic pie, Morton builds the layers in a Mason jar. The key, he says, is to just have fun with it: “As long as it contains bananas, toffee, and chocolate, you’re good to go!”

Have a restaurant recipe you’d like sniffed out? E-mail recipesleuth@washingtonian.com

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Posted at 11:57 AM/ET, 01/06/2010 | Permalink | Comments ()