September 4, 2007 @ 11AM


Word of Mouth …

… He's back.

After a year-long stint teaching at L'Academie de Cuisine, chef Gerard Pangaud is returning to his old restaurant.

At least, to the site of his old restaurant.

Gerard's Place has been put to rest, says Pangaud — to be replaced, as of September 24th, with Adeline (915 15th St NW; 202-737-4445), named for his granddaughter and staffed, in part, by the chef's students.

Pangaud, who earned two Michelin stars at his self-named restaurant in Paris before coming to this country in 1985, claims he is feeling better than he has in years ("I'm down to 16% body fat!") and is eager, again, to run a kitchen — but at least part of his motivation to return was seeing the smashing success of Michel Richard Central, Brasserie Beck, and Cafe du Parc.

The three restaurants represent the new generation of French cooking in the city — casual, unpretentious places with prices that are designed to lure customers to coming a few times a month, as opposed to a few times a year. Meanwhile, Gerard's Place was one of the city's most expensive destinations, with some entrees exceeding forty dollars.

"We can do food as good as Beck's and Central's and give the customer a quiet environment," says the chef, who has a disorder in his left ear and suffers, occasionally, from vertigo.

How will a place geared to expense-account diners adapt? By heeding the tenets of grandmere cooking.

Pangaud says he'll still be buying lamb from Jamison Farms, a celebrated purveyor. Only it'll be lamb shoulder, a tougher cut that needs the tender ministrations of the kitchen staff to turn into something memorable, not rack of lamb.

The menu will lean toward the sort of hearty bistro fare that is suddenly showing up everywhere (blue foot chicken, frites, braised beef), with several renditions of the chef's favorite dishes, like pate en croute (from a recipe from one of his favorite restaurants in France, La Cote d'Or, in Burgundy), and mussels (from his own repertoire at Troisgros, in Paris).

Consistency and precision are the hallmarks of great bistro cooking. Pangaud promises to deliver both at Adeline. "Execution, execution, execution," he says, sharing the mantra he will instill in his cooks. "It's very easy to invent." …

… Speaking of bistros: Lost amid the recent excitement over Michel Richard Central, Brasserie Beck and Cafe du Parc is the fact that Montsouris (2002 P St. NW; 202-833-4180), the spinoff restaurant from the folks who run Capitol Hill's best restaurant, Montmartre, has rebounded strongly from a tentative beginning.

If the menu at this Dupont Circle charmer appears unambitious and even cautious, with few dishes leaping off the page in the manner of Central's lobster burger or Cafe du Parc's pate en croute, it needs to be emphasized: This isn't a chef-driven restaurant, like those others; the cooking doesn't aim as high.

Nothing wrong with that, so long as there's consistency from visit to visit and a commitment to getting the simple things right. More often than not — desserts remain the big exception — that's the case. The steaks aren't going to make anyone forget the hulking, marbled specimens at American-style steakhouses, but they're rewarding and well-priced, the duck confit is correctly cooked (being neither greasy nor overly dry), and the soups and salads aren't throwaways (among the latter, look for a crispy envelope of pastry filled with braised oxtails and oyster mushrooms). Best of all: The potato gratin, its thin, tender layers of potato suffused with so much cream and so much cheese it's a wonder the thing can stand on its own. A wonder, also, that it never crosses the line into overrichness. It's enough of a reason, all by itself, to make a trip.


Passage to India, Bethesda Thanks for pointing us in the right direction last week. Our group of five (incl. two Indians) had a feast on Saturday at this lovely restaurant. Excellent food and very courteous/gracious service. The only downside- we walked in without reservations and had to wait for 15 minutes and they do not have a bar or lounge. Also they could uplift the wine list a bit. Still wondering how I missed the place while living in Washington. A great must eat for Indian food lovers and novices.

Glad to hear it, Albany.

Actually, I could see how someone could miss it. It's not splashy. It speaks softly. There's no fusion going on, no big, bright cocktails.

The biggest concept is the menu's incorporation of the style of cooking of East, West, North and South India. 

The restaurant used to be the second location of Heritage India, and it makes sense that customers might have thought that a new group took over the place after Heritage closed. In fact, Sudhir Seth, who did the cooking at Heritage on Wisconsin, and, before that, at the Bombay Club, took it over after a split from his partner.

Gambrills, Maryland

Good Morning Todd, it's Mike from My Butcher and More.

I hope your summer went well. Again I want to thank you and your staff for the article written about us last year in October. Our sales increase every week! If there is anything I can do for you please let me know, thanks. Mike

Nothing you can do for us, Mike. But why don't you tell the good folks on the chog who may not be familiar with your shop what sorts of things they might find at your place if they were to make the trip out to Gambrills?  

I'll wait for you to weigh in. Meantime, I will tell you all that My Butcher and More is a terrific source for marrow bones.

45 minutes in the oven, a little coarse salt, a few pieces of lightly grilled bread … mmmm. 


Whole Foods – overpriced
Wanted to cook for a date over the weekend and while on a budget I assumed I could get some red snapper or stripped bass for less than $20 a pd at whole foods. Whoops, ended up getting some pork tenderloin instead. Is that really what seafood costs these days? Would it have cost less in the early summer?

Whoops, is right. Seafood's expensive, whatever the season.

Springing for the exorbitant piece of fish for a date, that's a load of pressure, right there — and I mean, beyond the usual pressures of cooking for a date. You don't want to screw it up. And yet it's so easy to ruin a good piece of fish, especially when you've got so much else going on in the kitchen.

Pork loin, on the other hand — that's almost too easy.

Next time, you ought to opt for something in between. Up the degree of difficulty, so to speak, and prove to your someone-someone that you're still working hard at the wooing.

Washington, DC
Todd, please help! I have passed an entire summer without eating a single crab and have finally convinced my friends to join me for an afternoon of crabs on Saturday. The only crabhouse I know that is close (we all live in DC) is Bethesda crab house. We are willing to travel as far as Baltimore or Annapolis, although closer is preferable and the best price also makes a difference. Thanks for your help!

There's really no such thing as best price when it comes to crabs. You're going to pay a small fortune pretty much wherever you go.

I was in St. Michael's not long ago — right on the water — and the large hard shells were going for $70 a dozen.

So forget price … and focus on atmosphere and texture.

With that in mind, O'Leary's in Annapolis has everything you could want, and it's not all that far from DC.

Todd – best places to eat in Baltimore for a day trip? Looking for late fall seafood or Italian eats…. Also want to be able to walk around and enjoy the fall weather. Any thoughts

I really don't get up to Baltimore as often as I would like, and I haven't been to Little Italy in a few years (I always had a soft spot for Sabatino's, though) so I'm afraid I'm not much help, here.

One of the restaurants I would like to return to is Chameleon Cafe, on Harford Rd., although that's neither a seafood nor an Italian place. It's tasty, though.

Choggers? Help me out. Who's been up to Charm City recently for Italian? 


Hi Todd – I asked a question last week about Central's braised short ribs. I went to Central this week and found out that they indeed no longer have the short ribs on their menu (they have been replaced with another dish). However, I was told that the ribs may return to the menu later this fall/winter.
I believe they may have been replaced by the braised veal cheeks, which I can tell you are as just as intensely meaty and rich as the short ribs. And that's saying something.
Arlington, VA
When do Crabs go out of season, wanted to get a group together and go find a good crab shack in the Washington area, any recommendations on timing in the next month and place?

You've still got time, but hurry.

And I'm going to take you literally when you say you want to find a "good crab shack." There's a place I like in Laurel called Bottom of the Bay, just north of — and not to be confused with — Bay 'n' Surf, which had a devastating fire last winter.

Just in case you happen to be a squeamish sort, accustomed to the sort of places in DC that pass for low-down: It's a shack, full of character — and characters.

The crabs are dumped onto a newspaper covered table — no butcher paper, here — and they're hot and big and spicy. Good stuff.


McLean, Viginia
I've just moved to the DC area from England and am craving good British food. What do you recommend for a good fry up in the morning? For afternoon tea? For a decent pub in the evening? Thanks.

When's the next time you'll be crossing the pond –?

Because frankly, mate, there's not much here. Eamonn's in Old Town Alexandria is a great little chip shop and Mackey's on L St. is a decent pub, but otherwise …

Other than Teaism or Ching Ching Cha, both of which are good spots for tea (albeit Asian and tending toward the New Agey) most other teas are "high teas" — expensive and formal.

There's a British import, Elephant and Castle, but it's very much a chain. There's also a tapas place, La Tasca, also an import. And dreadful.

One potential source of comfort: There's a good little shop on Wilson Blvd. in Clarendon — whose name escapes me just now — that sells biscuits (that's cookies, you Yanks), teas, jams, curds and all sorts of British junk food. Hey, they've even got Spotted Dick!

Washington, DC
Todd, I'm a recent graduate about to move into the city and have an option between living in Columbia Heights or Capitol Hill. Which area do you think has better restaurants? I'm thinking not only in terms of food quality, but also in variety (I'm a big fan of ethnic foods) and price. – Julian

That's an easy one.

Capitol Hill has Montmartre, a terrific neighborhood restaurant, but it hasn't got much else when it comes to rewarding dining. The wine bar Sonoma is appealing, and the newcomer Locanda has its moments. But what else? And it's got virtually nothing when it comes to good ethnic eats (Taqueria Nacionale, in back of Johnny's Half Shell, is one).

What Columbia Heights hasn't got, is fine dining, but there are some pretty good options at the lower end. There's Taqueria Distrito Federal (for tacos and tortas), Rumberos (for drinks), El Rinconcito (for Salvadoran), The Hitching Post (soul food), and the new and promising Moroni and Bros. (for wood-fired pizzas and Salvadoran specialties such as carne deshilada). And Petworth — with Domku (for good Norwegian, Eastern European fare and aquavit cocktails) and Temperance Hall (interesting pub grub) — isn't far. 

Hope that helps, some.

Gambrills, Maryland

Hi Todd, at My Butcher and More we purchase both wet age and dry aged beef from fine steakhouse distributors from the Baltimore and Washington area.

Many of our customers will say our beef is better than their favorite steakhouse. I know better, since I sold to many of these fine establishments as a salesman years ago.

Yes, it's true our quality is as good as theirs but the customer is preparing our meats their own way – that's what makes it better!

Thanks for chiming in, Mike.

And I can add that, in addition to steaks, you can usually find good lamb, too — from such target destinations as New Zealand and Colorado.

Mike's shop, in Gambrills, and The Lebanese Butcher, in Falls Church, are the two places I like best in the DC area for buying meats. They're real, old-fashioned butchers. Not only can you get your meat cut and trimmed just the way you like, but there's something about being in a real butcher shop — and having a real interaction, with a real person — that makes going there a treat.

I know a lot of people love buying meats from the various farmers markets in and around the city, but give me a butcher any day.

silver spring, MD
Ray's of old, great menu diversity and great taste. Ray's of late, boring menu and good food, great bar menu deals. Which do I want? Ray's of old by a mile. Your thoughts?
Hey, I'm the one who last week referred to the place as Ray's the Steaks II.
Dont forget the Organic Butcher in Mclean. Local lamb and beef. dry aged, prime and humanley raised.
Never been. But thanks for the tip!
Waldorf, MD
If people want crabs and aren't looking for a fancy atmosphere, I've been happy with both Robertsons and Captain Billy's in Pope's Creek. But then again I live in Southern Maryland. They are the only places I go for crabs. They have consistently had all you can eat crabs for $25-$35. But it's probably a long drive for NOVA or DC people.

I've pounded this drum before, including my endorsement of both places early this Spring. But I'm happy to do it again.  

There's really nothing to compare — in atmosphere, in texture, and, not least, in quality of the critters. 

It's a long drive, but great crabs, like great barbecue, are worth driving for — worth giving over the day to.

Show of hands: Who's not just salivating at thought, right now, of a steaming hot spicy mound of hard shells? 

Show of hands again: Who's not jealous of the chogger from Waldorf?

That's it, everyone. I'm off to a (most likely) crab-less lunch.

Ah, well.

Eat well, be well, and let's do it again next week at 11 …