The Wrap-Up: The Week in Food

Every Friday, we fill you in on what’s been happening in the local restaurant world.

• After an editor’s note in the Washington Post announced that it’d pull Tom Sietsema’s unflattering review of Commissary—the Logan Circle restaurant’s angry owner claims Sietsema was retaliating for a soured relationship with one of the place's principals—plenty of the city’s food-world voices chimed in to defend the longtime critic:

Our Todd Kliman says: “Going after a critic—and it’s happened in Philly, in New York, and also here—is a convenient out for a restaurateur who would rather not admit that his business has problems and that he needs to take action from within.”

City Paper’s Tim Carman agrees with Sietsema’s assessment of Commissary’s food, noting that his own visit included “an overcooked cheeseburger, a limp croque-monsieur, and a dry, flavor-challenged margherita pizza.”

Foodie forum overlord Don Rockwell offers that “from what I know about Tom Sietsema, he is professional enough to remain objective, regardless of any potential conflicts of interest, actual or perceived.”

Ray’s the Steaks
owner Michael Landrum, meanwhile, asks: “The one thing that doesn’t make sense to me about this whole thing is what was Tom doing dating someone from Logan Tavern/Merkado/Grillfish in the first place? I mean, isn’t that a little like Louis Menand dating Danielle Steele? Or Pauline Kael dating Michael Bay?”

• In the City Paper’s new food issue, Tim Carman sets out to find DC’s most obsessive chef. There’s CityZen’s Eric Ziebold (who once left a Thanksgiving dinner to check on a tripe braising at his restaurant), Palena’s Frank Ruta, and Citronelle’s Michel Richard, but none of them apparently match the OCD tendencies of the big, bad Jeff Buben. Although the Vidalia chef/owner’s habits aren’t quite Gordon Ramsay-worthy, he does make his staff submit to a game called “Superstar Status.” And he did manage to scare former chef de cuisine Peter Smith with the vein popping out of his forehead.

CulinAerie, the sleek new culinary school from L’Academie de Cuisine instructors Susan Holt and Susan Watterson, just opened off Thomas Circle. You can’t get a professional diploma like at L’Academie, but you will find a pretty cool lineup of recreational classes: Komi’s Derek Brown is holding sessions on Scotch cocktails, pastry chef David Guas is teaching his father’s Cuban recipes, and veteran chefs Ris Lacoste and Gerard Pangaud are on the roster too.

• Sick of standing in line at Georgetown Cupcake? It’s not going to get any easier. On Monday, sister-owners Sophie LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis made election-inspired elephant and donkey cupcakes (Cute overload alert!) on Martha Stewart’s show. Two days later, a splashy cover story in the Washington Post food section announced their chocolate ganache confection as the winner of its Olympics-like cupcake contest. One way to beat the sugar-jonesing crowds: Try out the recipes both the Post and Martha provide.

• While the government scrambles to figure out the economic crisis, online reservation service OpenTable is unveiling a stimulus plan of its own. From November 17 through 21, close to 1,300 restaurants in cities across the country—including Washington—are taking part in a Restaurant-Week-like promotion with $24 three-course lunches and $35 dinners. Among the participating restaurants (click here for a full list) are DC Coast, Sushi-Ko, and Cafe Atlantico; Bistro Bis, Corduroy, Hook, and Rasika are offering the special-priced menu at lunch only.

• Wednesday night, we know you’ll be glued to the tube for the premiere of Top Chef season six, and we want you to talk about it on Thursday morning. That’s why we invited Spike Mendelsohn, one of last season’s cheftestants and owner of Capitol Hill’s Good Stuff Eatery, to come in for a live chat. At 11 AM, you can ask him for his thoughts on the new crew (and new addition to the judges’ table), the season’s first cooking challenge, and his future predictions. Submit your questions now!

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