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Voting Ends Today! Please Vote (Again) for Dining in DC!

It’s a dreary rainy day in DC today but we’re still going to make the most of the day! Today is the very last day to vote for Dining in DC in the Express Night Out ‘Best of 2010’ Poll. If you have already voted, I greatly appreciate your time and support. Every vote counts so please vote again (and again) and tell your friends. Then after telling your friends, vote again. I know what you’re thinking … Thank Goodness that today is the last day.

Here’s what to do: Go to People and Places. Scroll down 12 categories to Blogger (Food) and Click on Dining in DC to vote! Please leave a comment about WHY you love Dining in DC!

I appreciate your support! Please show your love and support for your favorite food blog, Dining in DC!

The winners will be posted in a special Best Of issue on Oct. 22. Thank you!

Dining in DC’s Foodie Itinerary: Sept 24-27

Looking for some foodie fun this weekend? The Dining in DC Foodie Itinerary includes food-related events for this weekend. Below is a compilation of various, food-related events, such as tastings, fall festivals, and workshops or classes throughout the DC Washington Metropolitan area.

This weekend is starting early on Friday with the first annual Mid-Atlantic Red Fruit Festival. Be sure to look for me! I’ll be there cheering for my fellow bloggers, Olga and Mary who are finalists in the recipe competition. On Saturday, there are a couple great outdoor festivals (rain or shine) and some good wholesome family fun to be had by all. To top it all off, we have a sweet way to start off your week with a chocolate boutique opening at Co Co. Sala on Monday.

Friday (Sept. 24)

First Annual Mid-Atlantic Red Fruit Festival

Looking to paint the town red, literally and start a juicy tradition, the International Wine & Food Festival will host the annual event showcasing a “red” fruit and 2010 kicks off with the TOMATO.  La Crème de la Crème (best of the best) original tomato recipes have been chosen by judges and paired with a top area chef, such as Todd Gray and R.J. Cooper, who will cook their winning recipe at the 2010 Mid-Atlantic Red Fruit Festival. Festival attendees will get to enjoy each of the tomato-inspired dishes paired with wine on The Woodrow Wilson Plaza (1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW). Join me and the other foodies at the festival. I will be CO-EMCEE with Ellen Kassoff Gray! Tickets are $35. (6-8 p.m.)

Saturday (Sept. 25)

Clarendon Day

With perfect DC weather, this may be your last chance to venture out for a traditional street festival featuring great eats, local artisans and rockin’ tunes with live music such as local favorites, Honor by August. Participating restaurants include: Artisan Confections, Clarendon Grill, Hard Times, La Tasca, Liberty Tavern, Lyon Hall, Northside Social, Mexicali Blues, Rocklands BBQ, Screwtop Wine Bar, Tallula Whitlow’s on Wilson and Restaurant 3. With a focus on fitness and health, the Clarendon Alliance and Virginia Hospital Center Foundation host the 13th Annual Clarendon Day, an event celebrating Arlington’s original downtown! Around the Clarendon Metro Station from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine. Enjoy an entire day full of food, music, art, fitness classes, kids’ activities, health screenings and more.

Kids’ Cupcake Class with Wildfire Chef Steven Lukis

Fun for the whole family! Learn how to Bake, Frost, and decorate a cupcake from a Pro! Join Executive Chef, Steven Lukis of Wildfire restaurant in Tysons Corner (and his son Spencer) for some delicious hands-on instruction and fun all for a great cause. A portion of proceeds will be donated to local charity, Food for Others in Northern Virginia. $20 parents. Up to 2 kids Free with parent. (11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.) For reservations call (703) 442-9110.

Taste of Friendship Heights

More family fun in the heart of Chevy Chase (yes, that place Mama goes to shop!) Enjoy samples from local restaurants, such as Lia’s, Indique Heights, Maggiano’s, P.F. Chang’s, and the Capital Grille. Listen to live music, kids will enjoy a moon bounce, face painting, balloon sculptures, and AU Basketball Games. You know the drill. Purchase food and drink tickets ($5 for 4). A portion of the proceeds goes to Community Council for the Homeless at Friendship Place. (Friendship Heights Village Center, 4433 South Park Ave. (12-5 p.m.)

Moroccan Week at Sofitel Lafayette Square DC

(September 25 – October 3)

Take a trip to the desert oasis of Marrakesh, the teeming metropolis of Casablanca, or the elegant royal cities of Rabat and Fez but leave your passport at home. Beginning this weekend, DC’s Sofitel hotel, located in Lafayette Square will kick off a ten day celebration of the flavors of Morocco. Ici Urban Bistro’s Executive Chef, Olivier Perrier will collaborate with Chef de Cuisine of Sofitel Rabat Jardin des Roses, Brahim Imourig to create a journey through the tastes and spices of Morocco, inviting guests to take a gastrocation to Morocco for authentic tajines, briouats, traditional salads, including Taktouka and Maasala, Couscous with lamb and tfaya. Sofitel invites you to enjoy the gastronomic experience, sure to awaken the senses just enough to tempt you to visit one of Sofitel’s three Moroccan properties, Marrakesh, Rabat, and Fes.

Monday, September 27

Co Co. Chocolate Boutique Opening Fete

The Rammy award winning Co Co. Sala, renowned as the chic fine dining place to gorge oneself on artisan coffee, gourmet chocolate, decadent desserts, and exceptional cocktails is opening a Chocolate Boutique! Yes, you read that right. A Chocolate Boutique: designed for a quick chocolate get-a-way! (take-away purchase) Co- owners Bharet Malhotra and Nisha Sidhu will open the exceptional chocolate boutique on Monday, September 27th to showcase Co Co. Sala’s artisanal, handcrafted retail chocolates created by Executive & Pastry Chef Santosh Tiptur and co-owner Nisha Sidhu and the new 200-square-foot retail boutique. Don’t miss the chance to get in on the goodies!

Return to Bibiana: A second look.

My very first visit to Bibiana was for lunch a year ago on September 4, 2009, its opening day. Since, I have recommended it so highly to everyone. I had such a wonderful meal with top-notch service, which is usually difficult to find the same day a restaurant opens. Bibiana’s servers were knowledgeable about each dish on the menu on day one — impressive. I shouldn’t have been surprised though since Bibiana is in the family of DC restaurateur Ashok Bajaj, who has earned coveted James Beard Foundation nominations for service and also was named one of the “50 Most Powerful People in Washington” by GQ magazine last year. Bajaj is also the owner of Bombay Club, 701, The Oval Room, Rasika, Ardeo, and sister wine bar Bardeo – some of the best restaurants in the city. Bajaj owns two top restaurants in DC that specialize in Indian cuisine, two in American and with Bibiana, Bajaj is throwing his hat in the ring of authentic northern Italian fare.

Bibiana Executive Chef Nicholas Stefanelli

The restaurant has been a huge success since its opening, as well as the executive chef Nicholas Stefanelli, a Maryland native, who has worked in the kitchens of Roberto Donna, Fabio Trabocchi, two of the best Italian chefs in the area. In June 2010, Stefanelli was named ‘Chef of the Year’ by DC Modern Luxury Magazine and won the 2010 Rammy for Rising Culinary Star. For a young chef, he’s well on his way to a very successful career.

I was excited to return to Bibiana for a second look — this time for DC Restaurant Week. I made the reservation online through Opentable.com and invited a dear friend, Rick to dinner. We both arrived a few minutes early and the General Manager, Christian Pendleton suggested that we grab a drink at the bar while we wait. I was interested in their handcrafted cocktails but I ordered their seasonal Bellini, which was very sweet but delightful. The bar, which seats 12, has a vibrant glass backdrop with small rectangular cut outs that allows diners to steal glimpses of the foxy Chef Stefanelli and his team at work in the kitchen. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Stefanelli is a DC area heartthrob.

While sitting at the bar, I spied Mr. Bajaj in the kitchen speaking to Chef. When he passed by the bar, I got his attention. It made my evening that he remembered my name but once again, I shouldn’t have been surprised since his ability to put faces to names is his claim to fame.  As we were being seated, he comes over to the table and smiles and says, “Ah Lisa! Does this look familiar?” He remembered the exact table where I  sat during my last visit, a year ago.

Polpette with polenta. Photo by L. Shapiro

Once we were seated our server offered us the Restaurant Week menu which was a three-course pre-fixe menu. Most of the dishes on the menu were well described beneath their Italian name, except the Burrata, which we later found out is a rare imported Italian cheese. For the first course I ordered the Polpette, a braised meatball in Sugo Finto with Anson Mills White Polenta and Gremolada. The meatball was very tender and flavorful. The polenta was creamy and paired with the meatball, it reminded me of meatloaf and mashed potatoes. More importantly, the polenta came from Anson Mills in South Carolina, which harvests and mills near-extinct organic varieties of heirloom corn which were once abundant before the Civil War. This is a great testament to the care that Chef puts into his food by using the finest available ingredients. The meatball was served with a rich tomato sauce Sugo Finto or “Fake Sauce” which in Tuscany, the word sugo by itself means meat sauce. Mock meat sauce, sugo finto, is made like meat sauce, but the meat is left out. Capice?

Calamari with Squid Ink. Photo by L. Shapiro

Rick ordered the Calamari with Sopressata, Potato, Lemon with a Squid Ink Vinaigrette. Sopressata which is an Italian dry-cured salami is a specialty of southern Italy. The squid was tender, neither tough nor chewy. It was really very flavorful and the squid ink with its deep color provided excellent contrast.

Baked Atlantic Cod. Photo by L. Shapiro

For the main course, I ordered the Stocafissio or the Baked Atlantic Cod with crushed potatoes, onions, fennel and tomato. The fish was so delicate, tender, and flaky that one might suspect that it was undercooked; however, it was perfectly cooked and seasoned.

Rick said that he had never tried Skate before, which I described to him as having the same texture as a scallop, so decided to try it.  The Razza or Plancha Seared Atlantic Skate, with Caponata, which is a Southern Italian Eggplant dish, and orange was spicy and I’m rather certain that the dish had peppers, of which I’m allergic. So I didn’t really try very much.

Zuppa Inglese

For dessert, I usually don’t order rich chocolate desserts. I tend to go for the lighter fruitier option, such as a panna cotta. I had high expectations of Bibiana’s pastry chef Douglas Hernandez, formerly of Central Michel Richard, well known for their “kit kat”.  For dessert, I ordered the Zuppa Inglese or the Peach Soaked Cake with Peach Pastry Cream, Macerated Fresh Peaches and Caramelized Meringue. (Sorry, the photo doesn’t really do it justice). It was a beautiful presentation. The peaches were very fresh and the meringue on top was just a tad crispy. It was like breaking the crème brulée. Some people are addicted to that. I thought that it was a light and refreshing conclusion to a deliciously but very filling meal.

Ciocolate or " Milk Chocolate Mousse"

Rick and I have been friends for over 10 years and I predicted that Rick would order the Ciocolate or Milk Chocolate Mousse with Gru Chocolate Tuile and Hazelnut Sauce. The chocolate mousse was rich and creamy but not overly so. The rich flavor of the mousse was accentuated with just a little bit of each of the tuile and the sauce with each bite.

Overall, Bibiana doesn’t really need to participate in DC Restaurant Week because it has steady business regardless, but I think that the fact that Mr. Bajaj does participate is an even better reason to dine there. The service is the best-in-the-biz and Chef Stephanelli’s cuisine is authentic Italian, yet modern. I’m looking forward to continuing to recommend Bibiana to my friends, family, and readers. In addition, I’m eagerly anticipating what fall dishes Chef will add to his menu. I’m looking for spots that I can refer to my sister to. She has been asking me for recommendations of where she can find butternut squash soup. Hint Hint …

For more information: www.Bibianadc.com
Address: 1100 New York Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: (202) 216-9550
Closest Metro: Metro Center

Pop vs Soda: What do we call soft drinks? MD and VA say Soda.

What do Americans call their soft drinks? There is an app for that. No, there isn’t but there is a map which was created by Matthew Campbell and Prof. Greg Plumb of East Central University in Oklahoma that depicts user-submitted data on Pop Vs. Soda.

So what do you call it? Pop or soda? You’ll definitely never hear a Washingtonian refer to soft drinks as “Coke.” Not going to happen. Well let’s see. Where do we stand on the issue?  The Washington, DC metropolitan area includes states, Virginia and Maryland and the District of Columbia.  Unfortunately, the District of Columbia wasn’t represented on the map. Great, now DC residents have even more ammunition for their argument of “Taxation without representation”. They’re not even included in a soda vs. pop count. What has the world come to?

In Virginia there were a total of 2,387 respondents. The majority of residents with more than 59% (1417) said they call soft drinks, “soda” (see map on the left). The state outline is mostly yellow/brown which indicated “soda” on their large national survey map.Surprisingly, 26% said coke (how embarrassing) while even less 6% said pop. I’m pretty sure my family would have to vote in the “other” column. In our home, we call it “sodie”. In public we call it soda. I think people would think we were speaking a foreign language if we asked for “sodie”.

In Maryland with a total of 1,985 respondents, even more folks, 78% (1547) use the term “soda”. Less than 3% said pop. On the map, Maryland is almost entirely brown.

So the majority of folks in this area say, “soda”. That seems pretty normal to me. What do you call it?

Casa Nonna opens in Dupont Circle Wednesday.

Photo courtesy of Urban Daddy

DC is really starting to feel the love. Is DC becoming the New New York? It’s starting to look that way. The BLT Restaurant Group based in the ‘Big Apple’ is expanding their brand and opening a family-style Italian restaurant, Casa Nonna in Dupont Circle (1250 Connecticut Ave. NW). Casa Nonna, the name for the 190-seat establishment (“House of the Grandmother” in English) will join BLT Steak downtown and the forthcoming BLT Burger (at 1317 Connecticut Ave. NW), which is also opening this spring. According to the twitter feed, the restaurant will be officially open for business this coming Wednesday, September 15 and are accepting telephone reservations at (202) 629-2505.

Photo courtesy of Amy Brandwein

The concept is modeled after the old-school, family-style Italian-American joints like Carmine’s in New York and now in DC and will offer pizza and pasta served in portions for one, two or four or “family-style”. The Menu of Executive Chef Amy Brandwein, a Roberto Donna protege most recently of Fyve Restaurant in Pentagon City will incorporate local and seasonal ingredients. Dishes will be served both a la carte and family style and will include house-made pasta and Neopolitan-style pizza fired in their mosaic-tiled pizza oven. Main courses include linguine and clams, shrimp scampi, chicken saltimbocca, and ricotta ravioli and orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe which average in price from $18 to $20 for entrees. In addition to the main dining room, the restaurant will contain a 12-seat marble pizza bar with a rock-star view of the 850-degree wood-burning oven while your pie bakes.

I’ve never had a meal that I didn’t like at BLT Steak so I’m fairly confident that Casa Nonna will be a huge success. Think they’ll have the popovers?

Casa Nonna
1250 Connecticut Ave NW (at N St)
Washington, DC 20036
202-629-2505
Twitter: @CasaNonna
Website: http://www.casanonna.com

Deal or No Deal Restaurant Week Contest Winners Announced!

Last month, Dining in DC and DC on Heels announced the Ultimate Restaurant Week give-a-away by offering five lucky readers a chance to win a $75 dining gift certificate.
We asked our readers, “Is Restaurant Week DEAL OR NO DEAL?”

Together we put DC Restaurant Week to the test. By design Restaurant Week is intended to offer diners an exclusive bargain that they could not ordinarily get otherwise. Most participating restaurants create a special 3-course, prix-fixe menu with the intention of putting their best foot forward to attract new diners to showcase what the restaurant offers, and for a bargain price. Some restaurants offer their entire menu allowing guests to choose their own three courses. During Restaurant Week, lunch is 3 courses for $20.10 and dinner is 3 courses for $35.10 (prices do not include tax or gratuity.)

For the “Deal or No Deal” contest, Dining in DC and DC on Heels readers were asked to take pictures of their meal while dining out for Restaurant Week and to send them along with the price of the meal, and explanation if meal was considered a Deal or not.  As specified in the original rules: There were five winners selected. Three winners were chosen based on their photos and explanation of their dining experience. One winner was chosen at random as a subscriber to Dining in DC. One winner was chosen at random who is a Facebook fan of DC on Heels. The winners are the following:

Lisa’s pick: Caitlin Smith of Capital Cooking Show

Caitlin is well versed in writing up her dining experiences as a contributing writer to the Capital Cooking Show blog and it showed. For DC Restaurant Week, Caitlin dined at The Blue Duck Tavern for lunch. She said, “the service at the restaurant was fabulous. We were well taken care of and our waiter made us feel right at home.” After stuffing herself with an appetizer and main course, she said she “although everything we ate was delicious, nothing compares to the Apple Pie (see photo on right). I fell in love with first bite and had to stop myself from eating all of it! Outside the weather was dreary but inside The Blue Duck Tavern everything was warm and inviting. We cannot wait to go back and enjoy another enticing meal. I thought it was a terrific deal!” She and her guest each got a three course lunch for $44.20 (includes tax).  You can read her full review with photos on the blog.

Markette’s pick: Becca of Bitches Who Brunch

Becca of Bitches Who Brunch (love that name!) did a bang up job writing up her “DEAL or NO DEAL” review of Chef Geoff’s restaurant week special. She told us in her submission that it was a DEAL because diners during Restaurant Week could order anything on the menu for appetizer, entree (including the rib eye steak!) and finally dessert… for only $35.10! Becca also said that Chef Geoff’s didn’t skimp on the portions, and she had the photos to prove it — she submitted 14 pics in all. She said, “from the wedge salad, to the salmon tartare, to the duck – and that’s just for apps. For dinner we had lobster, halibut, tuna, and steak. Oh my, it was amazing.”
She also said that her party of 6 received superb service during all three courses of their meal, which I can imagine for the waiter was a tough job for bunch of “bitches who brunch” 😉
Vanessa’s pick: Angelica Mar
Angelica’s visit during restaurant week was to one of DC’s best known restaurants —-DC Coast and it  left her saying it was a “TOTAL DEALIO” DC Coast is known for it’s delectable seafood but on the menu for Angelica’s visit  were options like fried green tomatoes with goat cheese and fresh corn polenta. Angelica says DC Coast offered many items that were NOT usually  on the menu. Angelica says “Overall, a consistent Rest Week winner – my friends and I will now have to make DC Coast one of our must visits” Read below to get all the details of Angelica’s visit.

Dining in DC Subscriber Winner: Jess Tunon, Arlington, VA

DC on Heels Facebook Fan Winner: Jamie Gulin, Washington, DC

Congratulations to all of the Winners! Thank you for all of your submissions. (It was really hard to pick just five.) WINNERS: Please e-mail dcfoodcontest@gmail.com to claim your $75 gift certificate prize!

Special thank you to the contributing restaurants for their donations:

Win 2 tickets to the First Annual Mid-Atlantic Red Fruit Festival.

The Mid-Atlantic Red Fruit Festival is an annual reception celebrating the spectacular regional produce of the Mid-Atlantic region. Each year the event will showcase a “red” fruit and 2010 kicks off with the delicious and juicy TOMATO. At the fest, local area farmers will be sourcing DC area’s most talents chefs such as Todd Gray, RJ Cooper, Xavier DeShayes, and Kaz Okochi in order to create spectacular dishes that best showcase the tomato. What will be their inspiration? Home Cooks! 15 Recipes that were submitted will be awarded prizes in 5 contest categories and have a top area chef cook their winning recipe. Festival attendees will get to enjoy the winning 15 tomato-inspired dishes paired with the perfect wine.

Exclusively for gastronomes and tomato enthusiasts, this event is hosted by the International Wine & Food Festival and serves as the home of the SEEDS TO SCHOOLS program, a landmark public drive that collects and redistributes seeds to schools and community gardens in our region that have a demonstrated commitment to engaging children with life science and nutrition.

The Who: Hosted by The International Wine & Food Festival

The What: The Mid-Atlantic Red Fruit Festival

When: Friday, September 24, 2010 from 6-8 p.m.

Where: Woodrow Wilson Plaza at the International Trade Center and Ronald Reagan Building

Tickets are just $35 but you could WIN 2 Tickets, exclusively at Dining in DC!  Your ticket to this outdoor festival includes admission to the event where you will enjoy 15 winning recipe contest dishes prepared by renowned area chefs and paired with wine.

To Win, simply comment below about a memorable tomato experience. Maybe a favorite dish, childhood memory, cooking experience or a memorable experience dining at a restaurant. You must be subscribed to Dining in DC to be eligible to win the tickets. The email used to comment below must be the same email address used in the subscription. All entries are due by midnight Friday, September 17. Winners will be notified on Monday, September 20. Good Luck!