LivingSocial Best of Washington Party 2011: Our Favorite Dishes

Last night, over 60 restaurants, bars, and breweries gathered at the National Building Museum for our annual Best of Washington party and guests grazed on everything from salmon sashimi and sea salt gelato to lobster rolls and cupcakes. Here are the night

Miguel Pizarroso of Redwood, left, fills cups with green gazpacho, a soup that was topped with a melon salad and rock shrimp. Right, BLT Steak’s tuna crudo with cucumber citrus and burnt-olive jam. Photographs by Scott Suchman

Slideshow: Great Food at the LivingSocial Best of Washington Party  

Best summery cocktail: We loved Urbana’s Hendrick’s gin-basil-and-cucumber Collins so much that we sampled it, and sampled it, and sampled it—it was the first and last thing we tasted all night. 

Best makeshift cocktail: The Oval Room surprised us with delicious riffs on Fla-Vor-Ice—those plastic sleeved popsicles that are neon-green and blue (Sure it’s raspberry!) in the grocery stores, but made with fresh juices here. When we dropped a bit of the strawberry-lemonade flavor into the aforementioned cucumber Collins from Urbana, it was a whole new kind of tasty.

Most popular ingredient: Raw fish showed up in countless creative guises, from 701’s rockfish tartare with Prosecco granité and jalapeño gazpacho to Sei’s salmon sushi with passionfruit ikura to BLT Steak’s tuna crudo with black-olive jam. Citronelle went a different direction, serving a tartare made not from fish, but tomato, while Annapolis’s Level crafted one from bison.

See Also:

LivingSocial Best of Washington Party Pictures

A Twitter Recap of the Night

Relive the Party Through Video

Best warm-weather take on a wintery dish: At the Vidalia/Bistro Bis table, it was no surprise the restaurants went with an onion dish. But the onion soup chef Hamilton Johnson ladled out wasn’t capped with melty Comté cheese, it was a cold and creamy vichyssoise that recalled French onion dip—in a good way.

Biggest crowd pleaser:
We heard more people raving about Restaurant 3’s house-smoked bacon on a stick—swabbed with butter, barbecue sauce, and maple syrup—than pretty much any other dish.

Biggest critic pleaser:
We couldn’t get enough of the pan-fried pork dumplings with Chinese black vinegar and pork fat that were being passed out by the Source chef Scott Drewno.  

Biggest tease:
The gorgeous-looking fried chicken at Central’s table turned out to be merely a display advertising the restaurant's takeout buckets. We were a little bummed that the chefs were actually serving a more virtuous yellowfin-tuna carpaccio, but we got over it when we tasted the gingery and delicious fish.

Things we’d most want for a picnic:
A bowl of KBQ Real Barbecue’s excellent cole slaw, lettuce cups of Jackie’s Restaurant’s barbecue duck with carrot-and-pickled-red-cabbage slaw, and a tray of Estadio’s deviled eggs topped with pickled peppers.

Least surprising line:
Red Hook Lobster Pound’s bite-sized lobster rolls drew fast crowds, just like its food truck.

Best planning:
The Georgetown Cupcake table is always mobbed, but in years past the sweets have run out of early. This year the shop came prepared, and kept the sugar rushes going late into the evening.

Surprise bit of nostalgia:
Ice cream push-pops showed up at the Oval Room table (in flavors such as sweet-corn-and-blueberry) and at 1789 (peach).

Dinner-and-dessert collision:
Chocolate-obsessed restaurant Co Co. Sala paired a fritter made of Roquefort, cheddar, Parmesan, and Gruyere with chipotle, tomato, and—of course—chocolate. It was a little odd, but it worked.

Best use of the fryer:
1789’s warm, just-out-of-the-fryer peach hand pies had partygoers going back for seconds and thirds (hey, they were miniature!).

Best use of chocolate:
We're big fans of pastry chef Douglas Hernandez's work at Bibiana, and he didn't disappoint here with his milk-chocolate mousse with gianduja custard and hazelnut powder. Like Nutella, but better.

Plate we wish we could have taken to go:
Etete’s generous pileup of rolled injera and piles of collards, cabbage, and red lentils was sized more like an entrée than a small plate.

Best parting gift:
BGR the Burger Joint had a grill set up outside the Building Museum so that exiting guests could get one last bite for the road.

Subscribe to Washingtonian
Follow Washingtonian on Twitter

Follow the Best Bites Bloggers on Twitter

More>> Best Bites Blog | Food & Dining | Restaurant Finder

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.