November 21, 2006 @ 11AM

Citronelle, remembering Jacqueline Rodier, Thanksgiving buffets in Northern Virginia, favorite brunch spots, Agraria, good food with a view, DC steakhouses, takeout pies, Heritage India, Korean cuisine.

To read Todd's introduction click here.

Alexandria, Virginia
Do you know of any restaurants in Northern Virginia serving a Thanksgiving buffet?

We've got you covered, Alexandria.

J. Gilbert's in McLean is doing one for $24.95 per adult and $12.95 per child.

Several levels above that, there's Maestro, one of the best restaurants in the area. It's doing one for $58.

2941 in Falls Church is also doing a buffet. Theirs is $75 per adult (includes a glass of sparkling wine) and $12 per child under 12. (Free for children under five.)

A lot of that research is courtesy Melissa Herald, who compiled our excellent guide to Thanksgiving Dinner out, "From Classic Turkey to Tandoori Turducken: A Guide to Thanksgiving at Local Restaurants." 

It's up now on the website.

For those of you who'll be eating in, I'm curious to know if you have any great family recipes to pass along — recipes that are tried and true and timeless.

Or maybe just a great Thanksgiving story. 

Or even an awful one. : ) 

Washington, DC
Hello Prof. Kliman: I'm not inclined to address you in any other way! I'm interested in knowing your top 5 brunch favorites in the DC metro area. Thanks, Former Howard Student P.S. Thanks for the introduction to my favorite German poet!


Whoever you are, you made my day.

Top 5 for brunch, huh? That's a toughie, since brunch doesn't generally do a whole lot for me — a lot of sameness, and especially for the money.

Howsabout I give you two places that I'd gladly go back to, again and again?

Poste, in the Hotel Monaco, has a terrific brunch, especially for churls like me who want a little more playfulness and variety. They've got a duck pastrami sandwich, bruschetta with fresh anchovies and wonderful, cooked-to-order, sugar-dusted donuts (yeast, not cake). There's also the usual complement of eggs and such, dressed up with little touches and refinements.

Colorado Kitchen also has donuts (cake, not yeast), along with fresh fried flounder and homemade tartar sauce, excellent shrimp 'n' grits, and terrific little buttery soft mini-biscuits.

Funny, huh? Rilke urges us to live the questions. And what am I doing today? Just answering 'em. ; )

Washington DC
Add this to your price-gouging–the heirloom turkeys at Heritage Foods are going for around $149 (it includes shipping, but still)!


Hard to justify the cost at that price, but man oh man — what a turkey.

Lucky for me, I guess, that I've got a hook-up.

Great Falls, VA
Todd, What is going on at Agraria? I pop in to the bar on Saturday night just to get a light bite and I was pleasantly surprised by how good the food was. I ended up eating 4 course. Do you know the chef? If you don't know him, you should…this guy can cook! Agraria will be my new stomping ground.

I'll tell you, Great Falls — you're not alone in your enthusiasm for Agraria. Not hardly.

Why, fresh on the heels of your posting, comes four more just like it.

Like this one:  

Todd, Just wanted to share an experience I had at Agraria. After reading you comments you motivated me to go and check it out for myself. 1. Food – seriously delicious 2. Service – I couldn't have felt more welcomed and taken care of. 3. Ambience – Warm and inviting 4. Chef Moore- A gentlemen, great cook and gracious host. 5. Value – Starters are $6-$12 and Entrees are $16-25 with exception to a filet What made our experience so grand is that we just came back from Circu De Sola as we approached the restaurant a well dressed gentlemen told us about the chef Chicken Soup that he was serving as a featured dish on the menu. IF I COULD SAY WITH GREAT HONESTY, THE SOUP WAS SUPER GOOD! It was a awesome first impression. Some other dishes that get high marks: a. Endive Salad b. Duck Sausage c. Potato Ravioli with beef cheek-foie gras sauce d. Mussel with snail butter and tempura fish e. Short Ribs f. Halibut wrapped in Proscuitto g. Pumpkin Dumpling with Maple Sabayon h. Bread Pudding We are now fans of the restaurant and to top the evening off the chef came to the table to ensure our experience was to our satisfaction. His comment was, " is the anything we could do to make you experience better." It was very refreshing to here a chef with such great talent to respond so humbly. Alot of chefs in this city could take a lesson from Chef Moore of how to take care of the customer. We will tell all of our friends.

And this one: 

Todd, I went to the Food Fights last week and I had the most interesting play on a classic movie snack…Lobster popcorn. The chef Ricky Moore from Agraria prepared a dish that I was truly blew away by the cleverness. It was a organic popcorn cooked in lobster butter and garnished with tarragon salt, chunks of lobster meat and some type of citrus seasoning and the aroma… it was fantastic. It was served in a black Chinese carryout box and displayed under heat lamps so it was slightly warm when you ate it. The only issue I had was that some of the people that were at the event were trying to eat popcorn with a d_ _ _ fork…I could not believe the snootiness. I am confident that everyone has been to see a movie and I have never been given a fork to eat popcorn with. IT FINGER FOOD PEOPLE! His dish was truly original. I shall visit his restaurant soon to check out his food.

And this one: 

Todd, Went to Agraria on Friday. I went there because I remember the chef when he was assistant chef at Equinox. I am was a member of the Junior League Club in Old Town and he gave a wonderful cooking class to our members. It was truly memorable experience, this was about 6 year ago. To make a long story short, we had a beautiful meal at Agraria and as I have research all of the unpleasant reviews, chat lines etc. I think this restaurant need more recognition. DC needs chefs like Chef Moore, down to earth gentlemen who genuinely wants and needs to make people happy.

And, wait — one more: 

Todd, I have had brunch at Agraria 4 times already and the food is great. My favorite is the French toast with Sage Whipped Cheese and Caramelized Fried Apples. Fried doughnut hole with lime sugar, and the fresh bread basket, delicious.

I say: Why stop at four?

More. I want more.

More more more.

More gushing praise for this middling, overhyped retaurant.

Come on, pr hacks, friends and family. I know you can do it! 

Gaithersburg Maryland
Please Help! I want to take my out of town boyfriend to dinner in DC….a place with a great view of all of DC and great food…..any ideas??? Thanks, Debby

Hmm. That's always a great challenge, Gaithersburg — finding great food at places with great views.

My pick at the moment would have to be Indigo Landing, on Daingerfield Island (right off the parkway as you're going to National Airport).

Stunning views of the monuments, you can watch the planes taking off and landing, and looking out at a body of water is always peaceful and relaxing. What I'd do is, I'd call ahead and ask to make sure you get a table with a good view.

Food's good, too. Bryan Moscatello's dishes are hearty and surprisingly intricate for Lowcountry cooking. Take advantage of an excellent bread basket, and look for things like the duck bog, full of deep, teased-out flavors.

Washington, DC
Hey, Todd. I love your columns (congrats on your includsion in Best American Food Writing!) and have for years. Here's a great (or awful, depending on your perspective) Thanksgiving story. When I was in high school in central Florida, my older sister started college–in New York. After leaving in August, she came home for the first time over Thanksgiving break. My mom was so happy to have her back at home that she said she'd make whatever my sister wanted for dinner, expecting, I imagine, some turkey dish: perhaps schnitzel, a perennial favorite in our home, or grilled turkey, or whatever. My sister’s request: stuffed peppers. The rest of the family was ecstatic, save for my mother. We were never really that into turkey and this looked like our first Thanksgiving without that blighted bird hogging the prime real estate in the center of our table. True to her word, my mother made stuffed peppers, but instead of using ground beef, she used ground turkey. Next time, my sister would have to be more specific. Thanks for letting us share our stories. Keep up the good work!

Good stuff, DC.

Keep it coming, folks!

Recipes, stories. More more more. 

I love that line, by the way: "that blighted bird hogging the prime real estate in the center of our table."

It's funny, isn't it, that the entire holiday revolves around turkey, and yet a lot of people I know and hear from don't really care about the turkey at all — and actually look forward to everything else that's on the table. 

NYC versus DC?
I think NYC has a wonderful food scene and you're right – it does casual and moderate really well, better than DC. I will say that where a comparison is hard to draw is simply the economy of scale. NYC has a plethora (ethnic or otherwise) that DC or many other cities cannot compete with on that level. It's also why it is a tough market to break into – owning a restaurant in NYC – since so many of them fold after the first year. By the way, I'm not a chauvinist from NYC. I also think one of the most interesting areas to watch right now in terms of excellent dining is happening in the Midwest.

I love that we've got these long, conversational threads that just keep going and going and going …

You're right about the Midwest. Chicago is a really fascinating place to watch these days on the high end (it's always been fascinating on the lower end and everywhere else). And Kansas City, believe it or not, is one of the best cities to eat out in in the country right now. It ain't just barbecue and great steaks — not that there's anything wrong with that. 

Washington, DC
re: PR folks – do you really think all four of those cheers for Agraria are all fabricated? I've never been based on the negative reviews I've seen of the place, but I do know you've once questioned a comment/question I submitted to you as restaurant generated when it wasn't so. Just curious about how much of what you get you think isn't authentic and a note to let you know that at least once you've doubted the authenticity of a rave that was genuine.

Me? Skeptical?

I'd be curious to know which place it was, D.C., that you stumped for.

Look, I don't profess to being infallible when it comes to things like this. But I will say that writing that sounds breathless, or pr-ish, or hyped up in any way, is going to bring out the worst in me.

So, a little advice: Next time, give it a little more nuance.

That goes double — triple — for you rabid Agrarians.

(Remember Paul Reiser, in Diner? "I'm just not comfortable with a word like 'nuance.' Now 'gesture' — 'gesture' I like … ")

Washington, DC
Todd, which steakhouse in DC is the best for steaks AND also serves top-notch, entree-size salads (for the one who doesn't eat meat but loves to dine with her meat-eating partner)? Thanks

Terrific question, DC.

And good for you, willing to venture into an unabashed palace of meat even though you're not partaking in the least.

I'd try Smith and Wollensky and Morton's, without a doubt, but I'm sure there are others out there, too.

Maybe some of the other choggers can add to the list.

Choggers? Are you out there?

Ex-Silver Spring, now in North Carolina
Todd I read Tuesdays chog, and FWIW thought I'd like to share with you my theory of why NY has so many "better" restaurants, especially the mid-level ones. This comes from one who lived for many years in the Big Apple. Bottom line–it has nothing to do with chefs, supplies, relative sophistication of the locals, tradition, or any of those things that are usually mentioned. The real reason is the typical NY apartment. NY kitchens are tiny, have very poor storage and cooking equipment, do not have a garbage disposal, and involve a long slog from the nearest store, hand carrying the heavy groceries to restock. Who wants to cook at home under these circumstances? And in addition, the apartments themselves are typically less conducive to spending time at home than is a typical house in DC (or just about anywhere else for that matter). As a result, the typical New Yorker has a much higher propensity to eat out than does the typical Washingtonian. This creates tremendous business for the restaurant industry, particularly decent neighborhood type places. The result is a much higher concentration of restaurants in NY, with greater competition that in turn improves quality and variety. It is a demand side, not a supply side, phenomenon. Just my $.02. Use it if you want. Hope all is well. Janet and I are headed to Vegas with friends next week for our traditional T'giving trip, and continuation of our culinary ramblings in the desert. This year's restaurant choice theme is maximizing value. We'll see how it turns out. I'll let you know. John B



I've never seen anyone advance a theory like that.

I don't know if it's true, and you don't either, but it sounds perfectly credible to me. Sounds, in other words, like it ought to be true.

Or, to put it another way (and with apologies to S. Colbert): You spoke truthiness.

Silver Spring, MD
I've been to Agraria. It was okay, not really a rave. I don't even remember what I ate. The view is lovely — a nice fountain. But I remember feeling like I was being sold something. Some restaurants will ask you if you've ever been before, or if you know about the restaurant's concept, and then start giving you a sales pitch that makes you feel like you're being sold a timeshare. Agraria wasn't the worst offender in that category, but it's definitely IN that category.
See, now that definitely doesn't like pr. : )
College Park, MD
Whenever the DC vs NYC thing comes up, someone always brings up deli. As in, the superiority of pastrami sandwiches in NYC. Ok, I know I didn't grow up eating deli, but MY experience of NYC delis is that you pay an awful lot of money for a hulking amount of deli meat on two slics of bread with mustard, and a pickle on the side, and by the time I've eaten half that sandwich I never want to see pastrami again. I have to say, I didn't think either Katz's or Barney Greengrass (is that what it's called?) was worth a drive north.

They do bring up the delis, it's true.

And you're right — the delis are super-expensive.

Katz's is good. Real good.

But you know what? It doesn't begin to compare to the epic smoked meat sandwiches you can find in Montreal at Schwartz's and otherse. This is a sandwich. The melting lusciousness of the sliced-thick meat … the fresh, visible spicing … You eat one, and you feel changed, somehow. It's a definite see-the-light kind of moment. That's how good they are.

Now that, to me, is a sandwich worth driving north for.


Washington, DC
I loved Agraria. It was better than Cats. I want to eat there again and again.

See, look what you've done!

I nearly did a spit-take of coffee all over my Mac.

(Is there a verb for this? There ought to be, don't you think? Spit-took?)

Washington, DC
Being unfamiliar with Korean cooking, and having been reluctant to trek out to Annandale, I'm thrilled to see Mandu finally open in my neighborhood. With so much Japanese/Chinese/Thai/Malaysian/Korean fusion in restaurants these days, I can't figure out what exactly makes Korean food Korean (aside from Kimchi). What dishes or flavors do you think represents the best of this kind of cuisine?

Interesting question, DC.

Aside from kimchi, you're looking — dish-wise — primarily at barbecue (beef short ribs, pork belly) and soups (especially seul leung tang, a milky-colored but beef-flavored, long-cooked soup filled with noodles, cooked egg and green onions), as well as panchan.

Panchan are the little dishes that come out at the start of a meal, and, to me, are a good indication of the quality of what's to come. You'll find anywhere from about 5 to 8 of these little dishes, which show off a range of hot and cold, pickled and not, pungent and mild. They're meant to wake up your mouth, no different from the Italian tradition of anti pasti. 

To me, you have to really be comfortable with a sometimes searing level of spice, a high degree of funkiness in the background of a dish, and a love of pickling to truly appreciate Korean food.

That might be one reason why it hasn't crossed-over like so many other Asian cuisines.

You quoted S. Colbert. I think I love you. Now if you can only find a way to quote my future husband, J. Stewart, we're golden!

Well, I don't know about a quote, but I could always just make a nice little reference to NAMBLA.

washington dc
Hi Todd, Like your new site! It really looks cool. Had a fabulous dinner at Indique in cleveland park . They seem to have gotten a new Manager and the service was fantastic. We went on a Wednesday night and had to wait for about half an hour to get a table. We are planning to try Indebleu for thanksgiving. Have a great thanksgiving.

Can I take the liberty of butting in and screwing up your holiday plans?

A recent meal at IndeBleu was disastrous — best summed up, perhaps, by the $16 kumamoto oysters (all three of them) topped by a granita of what tasted like Mountain Dew.

You can do better.

2941, Maestro, Citronelle, Vidalia, the Inn at Easton, Blue Duck Tavern — all are doing Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Washington, D.C.
Looking for insight on best bakeries for pies. Thanks, subscriber.

Sure, subscriber.

I'd give a call over to Baked & Wired, in Georgetown. They tend to put out only a pie or two at a time, but I know they take orders.

They're good and they're reliable.

Other places to look into: Pastries by Randolph in Arlington; Praline in Bethesda; Firehook; and Dean and Deluca

Washington,DC (Glover Park)
What is the latest on the quality of food and service at the "Heritage India" in Glover Park?

You're talking about one of the most consistent restaurants in the city.

I think they lost a little when they lost their chef, Sudhir Seth (who now runs Passage to India, in Bethesda), a few years ago. 

But a little, not a lot — and they've held steady since. It's still one of the very best places to go for Indian cooking in the area.

The other thing that's consistent about Heritage India is the service, which can be pushy with drinks and sometimes chilly and offputting.

Washington DC
All this talk about NY v DC brings me back to one of DC's glaring deficiencies. I moved here from Eugene OR, a town of about 150k people. In that town there were half a dozen bakeries that could make a decent bagette. In DC there are zero.

A half-dozen? Seriously?

Why do I find that hard to believe?

We're only talking about decent, now, right? Not good. Decent. Better than passable.

Who have you tried?


Patisserie Poupon? 



I second the Baked and Wired recommendation, and try their out-of-this-world cupcakes. Or, if Metro Center is more convenient for you, try Reeves, on G between 13th and 14th. Yum!

Reeves! Yes. For strawberry pie, especially.


May not be traditional Thanksgiving eating, but good is good.

Alexandria, VA
Are there any restaurants that will be open on Christmas Day in the Alexandria, Arlington, D.C. area

What, you don't want to know about Valentine's Day, too? : )

Hold tight, Alexandria.

We'll have something up and running on the website in the next couple of weeks.

The Critic’s Wife
The post about small NY apartments made me wonder — I grew up in Philly, and there are a lot more corner joints and places to grab simple (usually Italian) food, either pizza and hoagies or red-checker tablecloth places, than there are in DC. But people in Philly have houses. So could another factor be, a concentration of ethnic neighborhoods? Philly and New York have a lot of European ethnic neighborhoods. So, that might also explain why some of DC's best middle of the road restaurants are Indian or Ethiopian or Vietnamese.

I think you're right.

But then, I think you're right about a lot of things.

Actually, before I forget: Did you pick up the turkey yet? I'll get milk on the way home, and get started on the cranberry-cherry sauce tonight.

(Domestic interlude over.)

Enjoy the holiday, everyone.

Stuff yourselves silly, savor your time with friends and family, and let's meet back here next week.