Tuesday, February 28 at 11 AM

Every Tuesday at 11, food and wine editor Todd Kliman takes your questions about Washington area cuisine and restaurant news.

Host: Todd Kliman

Editor’s Note: Washingtonian Online moderators and hosts retain editorial control over chats and choose the most relevant questions; hosts can decline to answer questions.

Where can you get a three-star experience at one-star prices? Which hot new restaurant merits the scorching hype?

The answer to all these questions and more can be found Tuesdays at 11 AM on Kliman Online. From scoping out scruffy holes in the wall to weighing the merits of four-star wanna-bes, from scouring the 'burbs and exurbs to hitting the city's streets, Todd Kliman covers a lot of territory.

Winner of a James Beard Foundation Award in 2005 for the country's best newspaper column about food, Kliman is food and wine editor and restaurant critic for The Washingtonian. His work has appeared in The New YorkerHarper'sThe Oxford AmericanThe Daily Beast and Men's Health, among others, and he has been selected four times for inclusion in the Best Food Writing anthologies. He is the author of The Wild Vine, a literary exploration of two entwined mysteries: an obscure grape that rose to prominence, only to disappear, and its present-day evangelist, a foul-mouthed transgendered multi-millionaire vintner on an obsessive quest to restore the legend of an antebellum southern doctor.

Can't wait a week to talk to Todd? Follow him on Twitter for dining reports, tips, and breaking news from the culinary world.

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W H E R E   I ' M   E A T I N G   N O W  . . .


Komi, DC
The best, most sensual, most fully realized restaurant in the area remains Johnny Monis's lair of a place, a sparely appointed East Dupont townhouse withcheck itno menu.

Eola, DC
Daniel Singhofen scrapped his a la carte menu this past April, replacing it with a $65 five-course tasting menu. The move seemed premature, given that the chef had yet to establish his Dupont Circle townhouse restaurant as a landmark dining destination, one that had endured many seasons and fads. But Singhofen and company appear ready to make the leap. Courses are imaginatively conceived without straining for effect, and the execution is clean and precise without lapsing into austerity. Best of all, Singhofen imbues these sophisticated dishes with a quality more precious than all the tricks in the molecular gastronomer's toolkit: soul.

R&R Taqueria, Elkridge
Best Mexican food in the area, and it's not even close. Andit's in a gas station. Worth the drive to Elkridge.

Fiola, DC
Fabio Trabocchi's edge-of-Penn Quarter restaurant has put its tentative beginnings behind it. The dishes emerging from the brick-framed, herb-potted kitchen find the prodigiously talented chef moving further and further from the controlled elegance of his work at the late Maestro. They also find him cooking with a renewed confidence and conviction. The best of these platesan astonishingly flavorful ragu of wild hare with thick bands of papardelle, a double-cut, prosciutto-wrapped veal chop with toasted hazelnuts that accent the sweetness and nuttiness of the meat, a bowl of tender meatballs in a tomato sauce that frankly puts most Italian grandmothers to shamemarry rusticity with refinement. Dessertsincluding a fabulous cone of sugar-dusted bomboloni, with pots of apple marmalade and cinnamon gelatoremain a rousing finish.

Proof, DC
I love the tossed-off sophistication of Mark Kuller's wine-bar-plus, the sense you get that everything just seems to have fallen into place and nobody's straining too hard for effect. The cooking, under the direction of Haidar Karoum, reinforces the feeling with dishes that combine the complexity and intricacy of fine dining with the approachability of a neighborhood bistro: superlative foie gras (seared and served atop a cherry-studded short cake), crisp-skinned branzino in a saffron broth, a knockout plate of spaghetti and meatballs (foie gras is the crucial ingredient, an ingenious way of lightening the texture of the meat without resorting to bready filler). There's a wealth of good, interesting wines to pair with these plates—wines you're simply not going to find anywhere else in the city. The restaurant, to its great credit, makes them available in two-ounce pours that encourages you to try things you wouldn't ordinarily.

Banh Mi DC Sandwich, Falls Church
#1 Combination and #2 Roast Pork. $3.75 apiece. Vivid reminders of what the boring and/or dumbed-down others all miss—the peppery bite, the pronounced sharpness of the pickling, the balance between meats and condiments, the lightness of the loaf.

Rice Paper, Falls Church
This new Eden Center mom 'n' pop, the first restaurant venture for the host family after two-plus decades in the jewelry business, breaks from the drab utilitarianism of its Eden Center peers with a pressed tin ceiling, dangling globe lights, sleek leather chairs, and the requisite industrial brick wall. It's the cooking, though, that commands inspection: spicy lemongrass ribs, garlic-marinated roast chicken with coconut rice, and the most stylish presentation of grilled stuffed grape leaves I've ever seen—and easily one of the most delicious. The coffee with condensed milk is a must-order, among the strongest and darkest you're going to find.

Mio, DC
In its five fitful years, Manuel Iguina's restaurant has endured more identity transplants than a snitch in the witness protection program and more mood swings than a teenie pop star. It's currently up—way up—thanks to new chef Giovanna Huyke. Like Iguina, Huyke is a native of Puerto Rico, and much of the inspiration for her menu looks to that small but vibrant island. The chef appears to value execution and lightness even more than boldness and spice, resulting in a slew of big-tasting dishes that don't taste big. Zero in on her roast quail stuffed with foie gras and white polenta, a cubed tuna tartare with orange cream, and, from the bar menu, her irresistible bolsitas -- tiny fried purses filled with juicy pork, served with a guava dipping sauce.

Bon Fresco, Columbia
Best bread in the area. And maybe the best sandwiches, too—I still can't stop thinking about the unlikely masterpiece of brie, lightly caramelized onions and sundried tomato pesto on a light and crusty baguette. And the London Broil on ciabatta is fantastic, too. Gerald Koh, the owner and bread-baker, is a former GM at Breadline and as passionate about his craft as any chef in the area.

* Mintwood Place, DC
Perry's owner Saied Azali was lucky to land Cedric Maupillier, formerly the chef at Central and before that the chef de cuisine at Citronelle, for his rusticky new bistro. The Toulon native is doing typically great work—cranking out lovingly faithful renditions of such bistro classics as cassoulet (see if you can finish it without two glasses of wine) and steak tartare (the tiny, crunchy tater tots on top are a clever allusion to his old boss, Michel Richard) as well as offering up some sly, smart takes on tradition (frogs' legs with black walnut romesco, a lamb tongue moussaka). There's a whole boneless dorade with picholine olives and braised fennel that's a knockout—beautifully conceived, perfectly executed.

 

* New this week

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THIS WEEK'S CONTEST: Fill the empty spot on our 100 Very Best Restaurants list!

With the shuttering of Michel in Tyson's Corner, our recent 100 Very Best Restaurants list is down to 99 Very Best Restaurants. We have a spot to fill.

Today's challenge: Pick a restaurant to replace Michel (it need not be a fine-dining spot), and make the argument (details, details) for why you think it's deserving of inclusion.

The most persuasive entry receives a copy of the Oxford Companion to Food by Alan Davidson, a must-have resource for anyone with an abiding curiosity about all things culinary. 

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DC

Regarding the comment in last week's chat that restaurants should warn customers if a dish is spicy...

I actually find that restaurants tend to be overly cautious about warning about spice, so there's a "boy who cried wolf" phenomenon.

Funnily enough, the poster used the red curry at Shop House as an example. I had the red curry there a week or two ago and was actually warned by the server about the spiciness, but I didn't really believe it.

Man, was it spicy. Good, but really really spicy. But hey, I was warned.

Thanks for chiming in ...

I'm like you -- I almost never believe it. And often with good reason. But every once in a while you get something that'll rip the pebbling right off of your tongue.

I've found, over the years, that it's not enough to request "hot" or "spicy" at a Thai restaurant. You have to look your server dead in the eye and say: Make it like you like it. Works every time.

 

dc

What is your opinion about gourmet peruvian food?

Are there any places with this food you recommend in DC area or NYC?

Tks

My opinion of gourmet Peruvian? The same as my opinion of gourmet Thai, gourmet Szechuan, gourmet Brazilian, etc. If it's good, it's good.

There're a lot of good Peruvian spots in this area, most of them in and around Rockville. Lillian Clary's La Canela, in the Rockville Town Center, is one of the fanciest, but it's not at all an assuming place and you can count on getting a meal for two for around $70. That's pretty damn good, for this area, and especially when you consider the quality of the cooking there.

Most of the Peruvian restaurants I like are simple places. Emma Perez's La Limeña is terrific. Carbon, owned by Clary as well and just down the street from La Canela, is a fine little grill where you can get spit-roasted Peruvian chicken, a wonderful asada de tiro, sandwiches, and usually a soup of the day, as well as a nice selection of desserts. La Brasa, also in Rockville, makes a killer chicken soup, among other things (you can also find some Salvadoran dishes).

In Wheaton, I like The Chicken Place, which makes a terrific aguadito de pollo, a chicken and rice soup shot through with copious amounts of cilantro. The pollo, in this case, is chicken gizzards. The soup is infinitely richer and more interesting for their being there.

Bombay Club

The 100th very best restaurant: The Bombay Club. 

Rasika may be flashier and more in mode, but Ashok Bajaj's original fancy-pants Indian restaurant remains an excellent destination for high-end Indian food, and the formality of the service ('May I take your coat, madam?") feels like a welcome relic from a bygone-era of dining. On weekend nights, the lounge feels like the epicenter of DC Desi culture, with sexy singles sipping martinis. The dining room, meanwhile, is full of multigenerational Indian families feasting on curries and Thali. There is no other place like it in the city, and it deserves a spot among the very best. 

Well done!

You really do a nice job of capturing the place, and I agree with you that it delivers something that's lacking on the scene these days. But the food, the food ... I think it's sort of telling that you don't go on at great lengths about any of the dishes.

Washington, DC

Just heard that Todd Grey was turning over ownership of Watershed to a Dallas Company. Does that surprise you?

It does not.

Alexandria, VA

Cocktail question:

Do you think it's fair for a restaurant to charge as much as it does for prebatch cocktails as it does made to order? I feel like some places are taking advantage of the fact that craft cocktail bars like the Passenger charge more for drinks and bringing up their own cocktail prices, even though they're not delivering the same labor and care.

Have you noticed this at all? 

I have.

But whatever the market will bear, I guess. (That's the nice way of saying, I can't believe it's bearing it.)

I've lately been wondering if diners can tell the difference.

There are a lot of good cocktails out there. But there are a lot of not-so-good cocktails, too -- pre-made cocktails, oddly imbalanced cocktails, hasily-made cocktails, ridiculously ill-conceived cocktails ...

 

Arlingtongue

I throw my vote for Dino to replace Michel.

Eating at Dino’s is like visiting your Aunt and Uncle’s house for a weekend meal; inviting, relaxing, and the wine is flowing. It helps when your Aunt and Uncle can expertly put out some flavorful dishes with a rustic Italian flair.

Whether they start you with the Burrata, flown in twice a week from Italy, or a half order of the Cinghiale, you always know you are in for a special evening, and you are glad you skipped your poker game and made your way across town for this. Their choice of the Chesapeake Yellow Perch for the entree shows they know local, and sustainable. But it is their wine collection that seals the deal. Not only is it vast, but it is well organized on a clipboard they hand you when you arrive. Rather than intimidate, this wine list illuminates. Sure, your Aunt and Uncle know much more about wine than you do, but rather than flaunt that disparity, they share their knowledge with you. Each bottle in the collection sports a robust description on the wine list of just what you could expect when you ask for it. If restaurants would only provide such a handy guide, making a good impression on a first date would be a snap.

I always hate for my evenings with my Aunt and Uncle to end, but I know I will be invited back. It is nice to be the member of such a nice family.

Boy, these have been good so far ...

Bang-up job, Arlingtongue.

You make me want to drop by tonight for a meal and order up a storm.

Dino is one of those places I want to like more than I do. Which isn't to say I don't like it; there're things about it I love -- the wines and cheeses, especially.

Crystal City

Hi Todd,

I am headed to LA in a few weeks for a long weekend. Have you been recently? Any tips on can't miss eats? I am up for any range of cuisines as well as from fine dining to food trucks.

Thanks in advance!

By the way, loved your piece on dining with kids.

Thanks!

LA's a good eating city, and you don't need to go high and fancy to have a good time. Here're some of my favorites.

Lucques, Suzanna Goins's place; charming, soulful.

Picca for -- how to describe it? -- Nuevo Peruvian; fun place.

Jose Andres's Bazaar is a real ride; an expensive real ride, but a good one -- especially if you're on expense account.

Nobu Matsuhisa; sit at the sushi bar; still one of the best in LA, if not THE best.

Guelaguetza for Mexican food; get any of the moles -- but don't miss the mole negro, so dark you can see your reflection in it.

Baco Mercat, a new spot that pulls in influences from every corner of the globe, it seems, and yet somehow it doesn't feel like it's trying too hard; freewheeling and fun.

Have a great time. I'd love to hear a report of your adventures ...

DC

The Missing Restaurant: La Chaumiere

Yes, the last 30 years of culinary history is something that happened to other restaurants. Yes, when me and my girlfriend eat there (we are around 30), we are eyed suspiciously, as though having brought the net age in the dining room down 15 years is a bad thing. But is the food bad? No it is not. It is, in fact, quite good. Consistently well-cooked fish and traditional-but-done-right french dishes of the variety you might find walking into a random bistro in Paris.

The wine list is well chosen and there are several decent french options for less than $10 a glass, a DC rarity. The service is distinctively french without being rude (the same might not be able to be said for the hosts). The dining room is cozy and doesn't try too hard.

I think you nailed it.

There's a lot to like about La Chaumiere, beginning with, as you say, the fact that it hasn't seemed to change a whit over the years.

You're in the running -- even with your antecedent botching ... ; )

Takoma Park, MD

Hi Todd.

We recently dined at Blacksalt for a special 4-course tasting menu with wine pairings that was sold through Gilt City (Groupon-like site). The price was supposedly 40% off the regular price, but on looking at the menu on their website, they do not offer a 4-course option. I had bought the vouchers, but another person in our party paid the tip and tax.

When the bill came, it listed the amount I had paid (not the supposed 40% higher menu price) along with the tax. The person who paid the tip based it on the cost reported on the bill and, not wanting to make him uncomfortable, I did not correct him.

My question is, do you think I should go back to the restaurant and make up the difference in the tip? We had stellar service and I want to make sure the waiter and support staff get what they deserve. However, it diefinitely would have been in their interest to list the original amount on the bill, so we would base the tip on that amount. I also wonder how they determined the "40%" off if the 4-course tasting menu is not actually offered regularly. What do you think?

I would.

It's a good question. A complicated one, too, because your table didn't do anything wrong. But I think the fact that you were treated to such good service, and that you're still thinking about all of this, should tell you that you ought to go back and add to the tip.

I'll be curious to hear the denouement of this story  ...

NoMa

If 2Amy's is on this year's list of 100 Best Restaurants, then it is a shame that Pete's Apizza is not as well.

Forget D.O.C specifications of what makes a pizza, and forget the movement towards the smaller individual sized pies. Try to put yourself in the mindset of a younger you, and when you think of pizza (in the American sense), you think of some kind of variant on Northeastern styles. Large slices; a substantive, but crisp and not too doughy crust; and a wide range of toppings to fit any particular whim.

In my mind, no other place that I've been to pushes American style pizza to its furthest ideal better than Pete's. The crust is superb, with just a hint of necessary char; and pizzas such as the "Edge of the Woods" with caramelized onions and garlic, spinach, ricotta, and thin cross-lengths of fried eggplant show off new and exciting ways to top pizza. When I have a craving for pizza, I'm often not rushing to get a pie from 2Amys, I'm looking to grab a slice or a whole pie from Pete's.

But, "Rich in NoMa", it's not the pizza that puts 2Amy's in the top 100, it's really about all of the little plates they do that make them worthy of the recognition. I'd counter that Pete's does those things too. Their salads, while not groundbreaking in their design, are bright, flavorful, and fresh. Their pasta dishes show off surprising flavor profiles, such as a bucatini with pancetta,roasted corn, and a sauce made with the milk of said roasted corn that was quite rich, but cut with a delightful smokeyness. I also had a butternut squash soup that visit that was warm and velvety - a great treat on a cold day, and done with such aplomb that it could be featured on a mid-level restaurant's menu for $9.

I like your pluck, Rich in NoMa.

A really well-thought-out case for a forum like this. Good job.

I think Pete's at its best, is tremendous. It's just been more inconsistent than it used to be.

I do have to say, though, that I think you minimize the greatness of 2 Amys' little plates in your zeal to make the call for Pete's. I was in one day last week and had 7 of those little plates, and there was not one in the bunch that was less than superb. The pizza was good, not great. But those little plates were as good as anything coming out of the best kitchens in the city right now.

Cville, Va

100 Very Best Newcomers: Bangkok Golden, Falls Church, Virginia.

I live a few hours from Northern Virginia. When I came into town for a weekend awhile back to “visit family” (I come mostly to eat out at ethnic restaurants) I was determined to try the Lao menu at Bangkok Golden. I was not disappointed.

With my first bite of the larb gai—a bite that made me wonder what I had been eating in Thai restaurants all these years—I knew this was a place to be reckoned with. In fact, I changed my weekend eating out itinerary and returned the very next day because I refused to go back home without diving deeper into the menu.

I invited along some friends and we over-ordered and swooned with every bite. The crispy rice salad called nam khao was especially revelatory—an addictive salad of rice that is seasoned with galangal, chilies, and garlic, rolled into balls and fried, and then broken up into pieces and tossed with lime juice, fish sauce, shallots, herbs, pork skin, peanuts and who knows what else.

It is a world class dish, and the type of thing that, generally speaking, I find much more satisfying to eat than some white tablecloth farm-to-table fu-fu crap that I shelled out 30 bucks for. I returned again on another trip into the area.

Nearly everything I’ve tried here rings true: The complex, herb-laden stews called orms; a mysteriously delicious rice paste, meant to be wrapped with lettuce, herbs, and fried pork skin; the deftly grilled meats with punchy chili-centric dipping sauces.

This is the kind of gutsy, soulful cooking that I seek out at restaurants. It’s the kind of cooking that produces flavors and textures that linger on your mind. It’s the kind of cooking that should land a restaurant a place among the 100 Very Best.

Don't think we didn't think long and hard about it.

This is wonderfully done, Cville -- a joy to read, and very well-argued, too.

You're an eater after my own heart. The way you structure your time around hitting a restaurant, the way you rope your friends into your newfound obsession, the way you order, your appreciation for the little things that aren't in the end all that little.

My only hold-up with putting Bangkok Golden on has been the Thai menu -- which is more than half the menu. It's pretty ordinary, and drags the score down, as it were. 

But that Lao menu -- as I've written many, many times before -- is one of the great dining experiences to be had in the area.

...

I'm really loving all of these nominations, everyone. I have of course known it for years, now, but what a group of passionate, smart, witty, insightful people you all are. Reading all of these great testimonials to restaurants -- and seeing what you think makes a place special or meaningful -- is just terrific. Keep it up, please ...

Who's got another nomination?

 

Arlington, VA

DC isn’t really a Southern city. Parts of the city would like to think that they are, but they aren’t. As John F. Kennedy said, “Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.” And for a Southerner in this city trying to find something that feels comfortable to you it’s hard. So many restaurants are trying to do Southern food, in a way that feels fake and tortured.

But Sou’Wester does it right.

It isn’t a fancy pretentious, New York does Southern food type of place like others in the city. It also isn’t a slop cooked greens on a plate kind of place. The food is well thought out using premium ingredients. The food shines without being stuffy or pretentious, just like a true Southerner.

The hushpuppies are an irresistible little basket of dough fried, sweet and crunchy and moist. The grits are not instant, a sacrilegious trait performed at some restaurants. Greens retain some taste and texture. The food is given it’s rightful place- a place of love.

The pastries and desserts are a marvel of creation and comfort from a very talented, Matthew Peterson. Instead of being an afterthought, or a de-constructed dessert missing their soul, they are his soul and passion presented right there in front of you.

The service is just like the best Southern hostess, there with what you need even if you might not have thought you needed it, but not intrusive. Welcoming and gracious, while retaining the professionalism that is all too often not apparent in the current dining world.

Sou’Wester is a real Southern gem, that an actual Southerner can tip their hat too. I think it’s inclusion would be proper and give it the attention it deserves as it sits in the shades of its mighty sister.

See, what was I saying?

These are all so lovingly done. Real paeans ...

Thanks for writing in, Arlington.

Shaw DC

When it comes to cocktials, I think ya'all are looking at it the wrong way. While prices have gone up, they were never particularly cheap to begin with. For better or worse this is the land of the $4 Miller Light and $6 well drink.

Crappy cocktails with high pricetags (and most likely with a name ending in -ini) are hardly a new thing in this town.

What *is* new is that people around here are finally appreciating just what a proper cocktail should look and taste like. There will always be uninformed masses when it comes to eating AND drinking, and we can look to the long running success of certain bars and restaurants as a testament to that. If dumpy, clunky $12 cocktails as iffy restaurants are the price to pay for barss like Passenger, Gibson, PX, and cocktail programs like the ones at Rasika and Rogue 24, sorry but I consider that a net win.

And if I'm at one of those sketchy joints serving lame drinks, I'll just stick to beer.

Well put, for the most part.

I have to say that "uninformed masses" makes me cringe. And I also think you overlook the huge middle that exists between the likes of Passenger, Gibson, PX and the places serving up drinks whose names end in -ini. Take Mintwood Place, which, as you can see up top, I am already pretty darn high on. But the cocktails? Eh. And not cheap.

I can appreciate the fact that new places feel the need to compete and whip up some drinks that nobody's ever tried before, but if they're not eye-opening and fantastic then what's the point? Stick to making a kick-ass Manhattan. Which is harder than it sounds.

DC, DC

100 Best Addition: Pho 75

No white table clothes. No exposed beams or brick - white walls with scuff marks and a few decorations of its home country. Cash only. Closes at 8.

One dish, pho, a dish that comes alive every morning and fills the room with its complex flavors. Your first time you will order a number 12, uncertain of the various combinations and options. Over time you will create your own specialty, as you watch and learn from other patrons and their rituals. You'll develop you own specialty, maybe with the crunchy tripe or the gelatinous soft tendon, with just the right mix of side spices, sauces, and vegetables. Or you'll order your meat raw, and dip it to cook it yourself.

However you choose, a strong, sweet Vietnamese iced coffee perfectly accompanies your pho, although it too comes with its own learning curve and ritual. No matter what you enjoy here, you'll be greeted and seated as soon as you walk through the door. Your waiter will arrive promptly, as will your food and the bill. A seamless operation devoted to delivering a singular dish, with a consistent execution of which other restaurants only dream.

This is pretty perfect, I've gotta say.

You nailed the ethos, the vibe, the dish, the ritual. What a fantastic testimonial to a fantastic place.

Here's the thing, though -- and it has nothing to do with anything you set down here. Is Pho 75 even the best pho place in the area? Ten years ago, easily. Today? There's lots and lots of competition. I can think of a handful of places that I like as much, if not more. Not to take anything away from Pho 75, which is sort of the granddaddy of the area's pho scene, and important for that reason alone.

Not Hip on the Hill

Todd -

Cousin in from out of town. She's very earthy and hip (I am decidedly not). We are looking to get an affordable dinner somewhere on/near the Hill tomorrow. Desperately need ideas.

Not sure how you can be earthy AND hip, but ...

What about Montmartre, for French? Or Zest Bistro, for upmarket comfort food? Or Belga Cafe for mussels and fries? All on the Hill.

If you're willing to venture just a short distance, then I'd hit the Atlas Room on H St. One of the best restaurants in its class in the city.

Orrtanna, PA

Todd:

Maybe you should fill the 100th vacancy with the DC area's most popular mediocre restaurant.

Went to Maggiano's Little Italy in Tysons Corner Sunday with some friends (they chose the restaurant) and was astounded at the long lines waiting for a table. Nothing we got at our table would justify waiting. In fact, almost nothing we ate would justify a return visit. Nevertheless, the place was packed.

Obviously, your 100 best criteria didn't resonate with that crowd, which is why you ought to consider a lackluster nomination for the empty slot. Just think of the fun your readers would have with other, mediocre nominations.

Ha!

But you know, it's like with anything else. I know there are a lot of foodies who sneer at the people who eat at places like this, but then I'll see these same people reading a Nora Roberts paperback. Or talking excitedly about "The Apprentice."

I'm not a fan of Maggiano's, and have never had a dish there that I can say I actually liked, but I can see why it appeals to people. And it always seems like a good time.

Washington, DC

Replacement for Michel: Seasonal Pantry Supper Club.

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of hosting a belated birthday party at the Seasonal Pantry Supper Club. It was one of the best dining experiences I have ever had (And I have eaten at the best places in this city and around the country).

The food was amazing. Scallop mouse agnolotti with brown butter sauce and wild mushrooms was a perfect expression of the season. Ox tail tea, think braised ox tail capped with puff pastry. And desert, rice pudding flan with black pepper ice cream, was so good, and I am not really a rice pudding person.

It is amazing that Dan, the owner/chef, is able to put out this type of food with an oven and two induction burners. In addition, the menu changes every week.

But, the best part is your interaction with Dan and his staff while you are eating. He cooks in the corner of his shop and is happy to chat with you if you want, but he can also be hands off if you are enjoying the evening with your guests. It is like having his staff come to your house to cook a dinner.

If you haven't had a chance to attend one the supper clubs at Seasonal Pantry, go. It is a truly unique experience.

Except ... Season Pantry Supper Club already has a spot on our list.

But happy to include this excellent plug for O'Brien's place, anyway. It's a fun night there.

Takoma Park

Non-crappy, cheap cocktails. Just wanted to tout the happy hour at Sidebar, Jackie Greenbaum's cocktail lounge attached to Jackie's in Silver Spring. The entire, stellar cocktail list for half the menu price -- so $5-$6.

The "Tweed Jacket" is a personal favorite.

I love that one, too.

Sidebar is a great place to drink. And shoot some pool. And eat light -- well, if you can limit yourself to just one or two of Diana Davila-Boldin's small plates. Love the deviled eggs, love the mini falafel sandwiches, the salt cod croquettes ...

Time to dash out for lunch. Which means it's time to pick a winner.

REALLY hard this week. There're four or five of you I could've given this to, and wish we had that many cookbooks to hand out today for all the great, thoughtful, lively submissions. I hope my sincere thanks and enthusiasm, not to mention posting your words for everyone else out there to read and enjoy and learn from, will be its own reward.

Our winner? Cville, for the fantastic testimonial to Bangkok Golden. Drop me an email at tkliman@washingtonian.com and I'll get that copy of the Oxford Companion to Food right off to you. And thank you!

Be well, eat well, and let's do it again next week at 11 ...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[missing you, TEK ... ]