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To Do This Weekend: DC’s Foodie Itinerary

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 time of year is peak harvest time in the area’s wine-growing regions, but harvest-season bacchanalia — festivals, grape stomps and wine and jazz nights — kicks into full gear beginning Labor Day weekend.

Friday through Sunday (Sept.17-19)

St. Constantine and Helen Greek Festival

Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church offers the largest & oldest Greek festival in the Washington, D.C. area with a world of options for those with exquisite taste. There is something for everyone, whether you’re looking to wine, dine, shop or hop. This “Taste of Greece” has authentic Greek food, authentic Greek coffee, beer, wine, and live Greek music (Hopa!). Their Greek Marketplace offers books, jewelry, trinkets and religious items. Open to the public with Free admission and parking and covered eating areas. Credit cards are accepted.

Saturday (Sept. 18)

H Street Festival

This Saturday, the Atlas District’s rocking out their 7th annual street-extravaganza with sneak peak-eats from two new kids on the block (party) such as Toki Underground offering their “Pho Real Dog” and Smith Commons dishing out delicious combos such as beer n’ tiger prawns, and their 1/4 pound Angus Beef Burger with Tequenos (a fried cheese stick). Attempt your own Man vs. Food at the pie and sandwich eating contests. Rock out to live tunes from the dude behind Bad Brains on an outdoor stage. An estimated 20,000 people attended the 2009 H Street Festival and this year should be just as good. Dig the art sales, parades, fashion shows, outlandishly decorated cars and a boxing ring. A show of art cars featuring 14 (artfully) pimped-out rides, curated by Gallery O on H. (Noon- 7 p.m)

Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 18-19)

The Virginia Wine Festival in Centreville

The Virginia Wine Festival in Centreville is one of the area’s largest and is considered the premiere Virginia wine tasting event. What began in 1975 by the Vinifera Wine Growers Association to educate the masses about the merits of Virginia wine has now become an awesome party with good imbibes. Those looking to get their buzz on will enjoy 400 varieties of wine from over 50 area wineries. Unfortunately, Centreville isn’t metro accessible, so you’ll need a designated driver. Draw straws. If it’s you, sorry about your luck. You can enjoy the festival anyway with gourmet food offerings, a juried arts show, and unbeatable musical entertainment. Designated driver tickets are $15 in advance and $22 at the door. The event is held at Bull Run Regional Park Special Events Center. Tickets are just $25 in advance and $30 at the gate. Kids 5 and younger are free.

Sunday (Sept. 19)

Vintage Crystal

Wine festivals near Metro stops are pretty much nonexistent, which might be why this Dionysian street fest in the middle of Crystal City has become so popular in just a few short years. This year, the fest is Latin themed, which means there aren’t just 30 wines, but tequila tastings. Also on tap: food from plenty of area restaurants and performances of Latin jazz. Sept. 19 from 2 to 6 p.m. 220 20th St., Arlington. $20, designated drivers $10, children free.

Stock and Sauce Cooking Class at 1789

Executive Chef Daniel Giusti and Pastry Chef Travis Olson are sharing their secrets for making great stocks and sauces. Learn how to make fish, poultry and veal stocks and the art of a fine demi-glace and beurre blanc, as well as mastering pureed sauces. The class will be held on Sunday, September 19 at 11:00 AM, and is priced at $100 per person, which includes a family style lunch, showcasing the dishes and sauces prepared in the cooking class, paired with wine from 1789’s award-winning list. Space is limited for this hands-on cooking experience and reservations are required by calling 202-965-1789.

Sunday (Sept. 19-25)

Great American Dine-Out

Hundreds of DC area restaurants are offering great promotions, featuring special dishes, and donating part of their proceeds to participate in the Great American Dine-Out from September 19th to September 25th. During that week, five percent of participating restaurant’s proceeds will be donated to Share Our Strength, a national non-profit working to combat childhood hunger. The time has finally come where gluttony is no longer a sin, but cause for honorable celebration. To find participating restaurants see the Share Our Strength website.

Capital Cooking Cookbook is as well-rounded as our nation’s capital with recipes from DC’s best chefs.

Lauren DeSantis holding the Capital Cooking Cookbook.

On Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at Union Row in the heart of the U-street corridor in Washington, DC Lauren DeSantis, host and producer of local television series and blog the Capital Cooking  Show which highlights the abundance of cultural influences on the culinary industry in Washington, DC debuted her latest project — the Capital Cooking cookbook. The gathering in the lobby and private party room of her posh condo building was packed with friends, fans, foodies, wine lovers, and fellow food bloggers. Local DC area chefs, Dan Giusti of 1789, Dean Gold of Dino, Jamie Montes de Oca, Jr. of ZENTAN and Sarah Smith, of Cashion’s Eat Place each provided guests with samples of their restaurant’s fare. Chef Ana Victoria from the Embassy of Panama offered samples of her recipe featured in the cookbook, Shrimp and Fish Ceviche with Pixbae which had an interesting and unique ingredient from the Panama palm tree, “Pixbae.” Co-founders, Brett Thompson and Heath Hall of Pork Barrel BBQ offered pulled Pork Barrel BBQ sandwiches with bread pudding. In addition, local JD Gourmet which produces aged Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil blends, showcased their balsamic vinaigrette by offering it drizzled on a fig, strawberry spinach salad.

1789 Executive Chef, Dan Giusti preparing his dish.

My favorites were Giusti’s single bite of fresh local asparagus with big eye tuna Surryano Ham, and smoked paprika, the pulled Pork Barrel BBQ sandwich with bread pudding and Chef Gold’s meatballs, which were tender, juicy and very flavorful. I swore that they were better than my mother’s! (Sorry, Mom!)

The enormous colorful cake by Mallow Drama, Inc.  was quite a spectacle in the shape of the Capitol building wearing a toque, which is the appropriate and clever logo of the Capital Cooking show. Many attendees were eager to take a photo of the fanciful eatable art, including myself.

In addition to offering samples of their featured recipe in the cookbook, Chefs Dan Giusti of 1789, Ana Victoria at the Embassy of Panama, Brett Thompson and Heath Hall of Pork Barrel BBQ were guests on the Capital Cooking show and were on hand to autograph their photos or recipes in the book. Apparently, I was one of the only guests to ask for their autographs. It makes perfect sense to me. They’re there — why not?!!

The 129 page cookbook is filled with recipes, sample menus for party planning, and photos from guests of her show — and with every recipe or photo there is a wonderful story about how dreams come true. Co-founders, Brett Thompson and Heath Hall of Pork Barrel BBQ, who has a recipe featured in the cookbook and also was a guest on the show, plans to open a southern style pulled pork BBQ restaurant in the fall, slated for September in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, VA. Brett originally from Missouri and has lived and worked in Washington, DC for eight years. Brett said that he and Heath, “still have their day jobs working for the U.S. Senate.” Sounds like a swell life right? Senate staffers by day, BBQ devotees by night. According to their website, they got the idea for the restaurant in 2006, tired from working late and listening to Senators argue the merits of Pork Barrel spending in the midst of a Congressional Appropriations debate. Once Senator Jim Talent from Missouri was out of office, Brett and Heath discussed opening their own restaurant. In December 2008, Pork Barrel BBQ was founded. Brett and Hall ran the company out of the basement of their houses, selling the BBQ products one bottle at a time and are fulfilling their dream. They have won multiple contests such as the Memphis in May World Championship for their Barbecue Dry Rub and sauces and participated in ABC’s Shark Tank. Their products are now available in over 130 stores nationwide.

The BBQ plans to be at the Food & Wine Festival at the National Harbor, June 12-13, to showcase their BBQ and to get the word out about their new restaurant opening in just a few short months. Brett and I discussed the festival and I was excited to tell them that I will be at the festival to judge the So You Think You Can Grill contest for the Beef Checkoff Initiative.

Ana Victoria, Chef at the Embassy of Panama in Washington, DC is just 21 years old. After graduating from the esteemed Culinary Institute of American in Hyde Park, NY she came to DC for a one year work Visa to work at Palena. She met the Capital Cooking host, DeSantis recently at the Embassy Challenge competition where DeSantis asked Ana to be a guest on her show.  

According to DeSantis’ husband, Corey Then, the Capital Cooking show has been picked up by a new network and will hopefully have continued success. If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, the Capital Cooking Cookbook is available online for $29.99. Congratulations to Lauren, may she have continued success!

Rammy nominations announced!

RISING STAR CHEFS ... Liam LaCivita, The Liberty Tavern; Jon Mathieson – Inox, Mike Isabella Zaytinya; Nicholas Stefanelli – Bibiana; Shannon Overmiller – Majestic Café. Photo by Michael Birchenall http://bit.ly/d6XeMU

On Tuesday, March 23, 2010, restaurateurs, celebrity chefs and key restaurant industry players flocked to The Ritz-Carlton in Washington, DC for a celebration as the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington announced the 2010 RAMMY Award Nominees. Hosted by emcees Nycci and David Nellis, hosts of Dishing it Out on Federal News Radio, Washington, DC’s only food and beverage centric radio show.

The nominees for the DC’s “Oscars” annual restaurant awards, aka the Rammys Winners from the following categories will be chosen by a panel of judges, and announced June 6. The following nominees are chosen by an anonymous panel judges comprised of  esteemed food/restaurant writers and critics:

Fine Dining: The nominee is a member restaurant that demonstrates an unwavering standard of dining excellence in food, service and ambiance.  The nominee must have been in business a minimum of two years by December 1, 2009. 

Fine Dining Finalists: 2941, Michel Richard Citronelle, Minibar by José Andrés, The Oval Room, The Source by Wolfgang Puck

Upscale Casual: The nominee is a member restaurant that demonstrates a commitment to dining excellence in food, service and ambiance. The dining experience may be more casual than Fine Dining, the price point lower, but the commitment to excellence is paramount. The nominee must have been in business a minimum of two years by December 1, 2009.  

Upscale Casual Finalists: Central Michel Richard, The Liberty Tavern, Proof, Vermilion, Zaytinya

New Restaurant: A restaurant that must have been opened between December 1, 2008 and November 30, 2009 and already distinguishes itself as a pacesetter in food, beverage and service.

New Restaurant Finalists: Bibiana, Birch & Barley, Bourbon Steak, Eventide, Inox

Chef: The nominee is an executive chef or chef de cuisine who demonstrates consistent standards of excellence and serves as an inspiration to other food professionals.  The nominee displays a dedication to the artistry of food, exhibits an ongoing commitment to the community and may be from any type of establishment.  The nominee must have been a chef for the past five years with a minimum of two years based in the Metropolitan Washington area.

Chef Finalists: Bertrand Chemel of 2941, Scott Drewno of The Source, Daniel Giusti of 1789, Vikram Sunderam of Rasika, Haidar Karoum of Proof

Rising Culinary Star: The nominee is an “up and coming” chef who demonstrates exemplary talent, shows leadership and promise for the future.  The nominee must have been based in the Metropolitan Washington area for a minimum of two years.

Rising Culinary Star Finalists: Michael Isabella of Zaytinya, Liam LaCivita of The Liberty Tavern, Shannon Overmiller of The Majestic, Nicholas Stefanelli of Bibiana, Jon Mathieson of Inox

Pastry Chef: The nominee is a restaurant pastry chef who prepares desserts and pastries and demonstrates a high standard of excellence and culinary artistry.  The nominee serves as an inspiration to other food professionals.  The nominee must have been a pastry chef for the past five years with a minimum of two years based in the Metropolitan Washington area.

Pastry Chef Finalists: Anthony Chavez of 2941, Amanda Cook of CityZen, Josh Short of Neighborhood Restaurant Group, Fabrice Bendano of Adour, Travis Olson of 1789

Wine Program: The member restaurant is distinguished by the quality, diversity, clarity and value of its wine program.  The nominee’s wine program best suits the cuisine and style of the restaurant while enhancing the dining experience.  The nominated restaurant must have been in operation for a minimum of two years by December 1, 2009.

Wine Program: 2941, Michel Richard Citronelle, Dino, 701/Ardeo/Bardeo/Bibiana/Bombay Club/The Oval Room/Rasika, Proof

Beverage/Mixology Program: New for 2010! The member restaurant is distinguished by the quality, diversity, creativity, clarity and value of its beverage program.  The nominee’s beverage program best suits the cuisine and style of the restaurant while enhancing the restaurant experience.  The nominated restaurant must have been in operation for a minimum of two years by December 1, 2009

Beverage/Mixology Program Finalists: Brasserie Beck, EatGoodFoodGroup (Eve, PX), Founding Farmers, PS 7’s, Tabard Inn

Manager: The nominee is a manager or general manager in the food service industry who displays the highest level of professionalism and leadership with a member business. This person must be an inspiration and mentor to all his/her co-workers displaying outstanding service, an excellent work ethic and a positive image.

Manager Finalists: Souheil Moussadik of CoCo. Sala, Ryan McCarthy of Passion Food Hospitality, Ashley Williams of Mie N Yu, Mark Politzer of Bourbon Steak, Fernando Contreras of KAZ Sushi Bistro

Employee: The nominee is a non-managerial employee of a member business who serves as a model employee by displaying outstanding service, an excellent work ethic and a positive image.  This nominee must have been working in the food service industry for a minimum of three years by December 1, 2009.

Employee: Corina August of Mie N Yu, Joe Bolam of Urbana, Adolfo Cajchon of Seasons, Marco Guzman of Café Atlantico, Jose Orantes of Dino

The public at large will have the esteemed opportunity to weigh in and choose the winners in the following category with a special ballot appearing in The Washington City Paper April 29 or online at www.ramw.org:

Neighborhood Gathering Place: This nominee is a restaurant that demonstrates a high standard of quality and congeniality rooted in its neighborhood.

Neighborhood Gathering Place: Bar Pilar, Belga Café, Cork, EatBar, Kemble Park Tavern

Restaurant Power Spot: This nominee is a top choice member restaurant, a spot to “see and be seen” with the movers and shakers on the national and local political and business scene.  It best exemplifies “how Metropolitan Washington works.”

Restaurant Power Spot: Art & Soul, BLT Steak, Bombay Club, The Source, Teatro Goldoni

Hottest Restaurant Bar Scene: This nominee is a member restaurant or hotel bar that is innovative with an energetic scene (atmosphere, drink menu, etc.) with a hip and eclectic crowd and is a great people watching and meeting place.

Hottest Restaurant Bar Scene: Birch & Barley and ChurchKey, Bourbon Steak, Masa 14, Posto, POV

The 2010 RAMMY Award winners will be announced at the RAMMY gala on June 6, 2010 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC. The theme of the 2010 RAMMY Awards is “We’ll Always Have… Restaurants,” and is a play on a famous line from the 1940’s movie Casablanca. 1940’s era glamour will influence the décor and attire and infuse the evening with an air of intrigue. Tickets to the RAMMYS may be purchased by calling 202.331.5990 or by email at rammys@ramw.org.
A portion of the proceeds from the gala will benefit the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Association Education Foundation to fund scholarships for culinary education students, enabling them to develop and expand their career opportunities in the restaurant industry.

Dining in DC buzz on the street


There is a lot happening. The buzz on the street is of course about the new restaurant opening, “Ris”  in West End(2275 L Street, NW) by former 1789 Executive Chef Ris LaCoste. I’ve run into her on the food trail and she is a very nice lady. It’s taken several years for her to finally reach opening, so I am glad for her that it actually came to fruition. I learned on Twitter from Ris that she appointed Ed Kwitowski as the new Chef de Cuisine.  

Zagat’s write up included a description of the interior and menu. Apparently the Cafe is designed to be a neighborhood spot including a moderately priced menu that will feature comfort food with daily specials: Meatloaf Mondays; Tuesday, Paris bistro fare; Wednesday, spaghetti and meatballs; Thursday, signature rack of lamb; Friday, seafood, with guest oyster shuckers; and Saturday offers “Date Night” with steak and potatoes and crème brûlée. Sunday Ris will offer a Chef’s choice family-style supper of which the menu will change on a whim.  

Ris will opening its doors on December 7th. Do you have reservations yet? Head to risdc.com or call 202.730.2500

Also, the new Cork wine market and tasting room opens today (located at 1805 14th St. NW, on the same block as the Cork restaurant).  The new market has been greatly anticipated ever since Co-owners Khalid Pitts and Diane Gross, winners of the RAMMY award for Best New Restaurant, announced in May their plans to expand their business with the new Cork Wine Market. The new market will bring to the neighborhood, a wine and gourmet food shop with old world wines (from France, Italy and Spain) as well as new, with limited delivery service, wine classes and wine tracking services at the retail store. The market will also offer baked goods, charcuterie, cheese, jams, specialty vinegars and oils, and other accompaniments. The open kitchen in the back will allow the shop to make sandwiches, salad and other limited carryout items. Gronning Architects, who created Cork’s lived-in feel, will design the market in the same style, which Pitts calls “rustic urban.”

Photo courtesy of ReadExpress.com

Daniel Fisher, a server at Cork, will head up the in store operations of the market. The market’s chef will be Kristin Hutter, who started at the restaurant this summer and has cooked at Citronelle and Black Market Bistro

1789 Celebrates the American Chestnut with a special tasting menu.

I had the pleasure of dining at 1789 on Wednesday night to try their latest seasonal 3 course, chestnut-inspired tasting menu only available this month. Last month the tasting menu offered apple-inspired dishes. In December there will be a new 3 course menu for just $40. I look forward to hearing what Executive Chef, Dan Giusti comes up with to entice our palates. I was fortunate to be able to sit at the best table in the house, Table No. #14, which is situated in the John Carroll Room (main dining room) which captures the city’s history with prints from George Washington’s days as President, early maps of the city,  American antique furniture, and has the best view of the elegant historic fireplace. On a windy rainy night, sitting in front of the warm fireplace, I couldn’t have chosen a better place to dine.

Chestnut Soup with Foie Gras

The first couse, the Chestnut Soup is a thick, smooth, hearty soup with an earthy flavor and is topped with a small bite of crispy duck confit, maple-glazed chestnuts, and foie gras. The dark chestnut colored soup itself isn’t very flavorful until you delve into the duck confit and the sumptuous velvety foie gras (“fattened liver” usually of a duck or goose). I don’t eat too much foie gras due to its heavy fat content, but it is definitely a delicacy with its rich and slightly musky and intense flavor. I think it could be described as slightly metallic tasting or minerally.

The second course is a delicous EcoFriendly Farms Roast Poussin (young chicken) with Chestnut polenta, Brussel sprouts, Surryano ham, and red wine jus. Kudos to the Chef for sourcing his poultry from EcoFriendly Farms, a local Virginia farm located near Smith Mountain Lake in Moneta, VA known for providing DC area restaurants pasture-raised meats. The roasted chicken was deliciously tender, moist, and juicy with superb flavor. The chestnut polenta was light, fluffy, and smooth – a perfect accompaniement to the chicken.


Roasted Poussin

I have never truly tried brussel sprouts until this week but I have learned that they originated from Belgium and are in season beginning in August through March. With the prevelant stigma held by people of all ages that they are gross, I had no motivation to try them. I tried them for the very first time at Againn, the new British gastropub the previous evening and was quite surprised about their mild flavor and dense texture. It just proved to me that I could like almost anything, if prepared well. The roasted brussel sprouts on Chef Giusti’s chestnut tasting menu were deliciously tender yet firm with a hint of smokey flavor from the Surryano ham. Evidently, S. Wallace Edwards & Sons’ Surry Farm makes the special ham named after a mix of Surry, Virginia and Serrano ham which is made from spotted Berskhire pigs, pasture raised with no antibiotics or added hormones.


Chestnut and Pear Sundae

For dessert I was served the Chestnut and Pear Sundae with warm Comice pears, chestnut honey, roasted chestnut ice cream and candied chestnuts, a creation of Pastry Chef, Travis Olson. I was totally disappointed by this dish. It tasted very dry and way too starchy. I did some research and found out that chestnuts have twice as much starch as that of the potato – no wonder. The pears tasted okay but the flavors of the ice cream, pears, and chestnuts did not mesh very well at all. I will be happy if I don’t ever have to eat that again. I tried a small bite of the Gingerbread dessert of my dinner companion and it was a bit dry, but flavorful. It was certainly better.

Want to learn how to create this seasonal menu at home? Join Rammy nominated Executive Chef Dan Guisti and Pastry Chef Travis Olson for a cooking class, followed by a 3 course lunch including wine pairings Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 11 a.m. Cost is $75 per person. 

Addy: 1226 36th St NW
Washington, DC 20007-2627
tely: (202) 965-1789


DC’s Rising Culinary Star Series: Part II, Chef Dan Giusti, 1789

1789's Executive Chef, Dan Giusti

1789's Executive Chef, Dan Giusti

Each year the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) honors extraordinary professionals within the Washington, DC area restaurant industry at their Restaurant Awards Gala, “The RAMMYS.” Prominent restaurant employees, chefs, and local restaurants are celebrated and recognized within thirteen award categories. In 2009, the five finalists for the “Rising Culinary Star” award are Cedric Maupillier from Central Michel Richard, Daniel Giusti from 1789, Mike Isabella from Zaytinya, Shannon Overmiller from Majestic Cafe, and Anthony Chittum from Vermilion. As part of the “Rising Culinary Star Series,” each chef will be featured in an exclusive interview depicting their personal history, culinary experiences, and future aspirations. Chef Tony Chittum was part one of this series.

Lisa Shapiro Question: Who has been the greatest influence on you and your cooking?

Chef Dan Giusti Answer: I would say initially it was a family driven thing. I have a large Italian family. I was always impressed with one of my Aunts. At a very young age, I liked to cook. She was a phenomenal cook. I always tried to re-create something of hers, but could never do it, but this was when I was 13. She would tell me how to do something, but it never worked out. Everything to this day that she makes is wonderful.

So that was initial interest; I really enjoyed cooking and eating. I’m still impressed to this day even now after I have a much more scrutinizing palate. So initially it was her. Professionally I’d say that it was at my first job that really opened my eyes to what this was all about I worked at Aureole, which was Charlie Palmers’ restaurant in NYC, where I had my internship in culinary school. It was there that I realized that I wanted to be in fine dining and I really enjoyed working a lot. I liked the fast paced atmosphere. That’s a big part of it to. It’s not just about cooking. A lot of people like cooking. This isn’t for those people.You have to be into the atmosphere like hustling, the atmosphere, running around, and being aggressive.

Q: At what point in your life did you know that you wanted to be a Chef?

A: At 17, I knew that I wanted to be in the kitchen. I knew I wanted to be a Chef. I was working in NYC, all alone. All I did was work. Every night, I went home and I would think about what I would do the next day. I was so into thinking about the next day. That was the turning point and that was a long time ago. 

 Q: At 24, you’re already a successful Chef. If you could give some advice to young chefs just starting out, what would it be?

A: My advice would be, before you go to culinary school or before you make any kind of big commitment, you should just get into a professional kitchen and work. See if the atmosphere is you; see if the hours are for you.

That’s the initial thing and then from there my advice is to anyone who is at that point who realizes that they do want

Exterior of restaurant

Exterior of restaurant

to be a Chef, don’t rush into being a chef. You should take advantage of the fact that you work in a kitchen as a cook and that there is someone who is there who is trying to teach you. My advice is work somewhere where you’re always learning and being challenged to be better.  

Q: What is your best or “signature” dish?

A: I’m proud to say that there isn’t anything on the menu right now that has been on there long enough for me to say that. I’m a big proponent of not having those types of things. I know that there was a time, at the height of this restaurant, when the menu was the same for four or five years and that is when some of those dishes came about. ‘Oh, this is the signature dish of 1789.’ I have only been here one year. We talk about it about how we had some really nice dishes last season, should we bring them back? I question whether we should bring them back; why not just do different dishes. There is no dish that I would say that this is my signature dish because when I look back on a dish I say, ‘Oh I should have done this instead.’ I say, ‘We should have changed this or that.’ It’s such a learning process.

So now there are dishes on the menu that show that we’re definitely getting somewhere. We don’t have items (on the menu) that people are coming in specifically for. For example, Steak Tartare was on the menu for a long time and it was really good but I was changing everything on the menu. So we took it off the menu and people were upset that we took it off. We replaced it with a beef Carpaccio and now everyone loves that and now no one even cares know about the Tartare. And that’s the goal, we replace them with better things. It’s a different time. The lamb here is an excellent quality piece of lamb and is probably the best in the city. And it’s great and I have no problem with keeping it on. It’s the only thing that we won’t change. It’s the best lamb I have ever had. 

 I think our fish dishes are good. I enjoy eating fish better than meat. I like eating lighter too. I put a little bit more passion, or thought into it. In terms of a specific dish, for example, we have a Grouper dish that I really like a lot. It’s very seasonal; very American and a play on traditional food. Which I think, all in all is what we’re trying to do here; American food, seasonal and relatively simple to a point, which is what we’re trying to do here. The dish is a small piece of South Carolina Red Grouper, seared, roasted and served with a beer boil, white ale, Yukon gold potatoes, shellfish stock, roasted fennel, ramps, and crispy fried soft-shell crab, tossed in smoked paprika. People really like it. That dish I think – is my favorite dish. It’s a really great example of the food that we’re trying to do here and the food that I’d like to do here. If I can be content with every dish as I am with that dish, I’d be happy.

We give people good options and we have the prix fixe menu also. I like to keep things consistent. When I get a complaint, it throws me off. Most people who come in here will enjoy it but then you have that 5% that are difficult and are really paying attention to the food and then you have that 1% who will never be happy, no matter what. We want to please those people. They came here because they had high expectations and we want to meet those expectations. Especially now with the economy, you have to fight for your customers. The economy is bad and DC is becoming a much better restaurant scene. Everyone who comes in here, we need to impress.

Inside 1789's Dining Room; Gorgeous Fireplace

Inside 1789's Dining Room; Gorgeous Fireplace

I would like to see a younger group of people who are really into the food here. We need a future. The fact that we require a jacket we hope that it doesn’t keep people from coming here. Our restaurant is very Washington. It’s great food and great service. 

 Q: What is your favorite or most frequently used ingredient?

A: We use a lot of vinegar. A lot of pickled things in a lot of dishes. Pickled pearl onions have shown up on like 20 dishes since I have been here. Also pickled ramps. A lot of acid. Like that Grouper dish has a good amount of lemon. I really enjoy vinegar.

Q: In the DC metro area, what are your current favorite restaurants?

A: Obelisk is a great restaurant. I went there for the first time when I was 15. I’ve eaten there at least six or seven times and a month ago. I think that’s a great restaurant. Are you going to be blown away with the food? Sometimes, maybe but usually not blown away but when you go there you know that you’re going to get good food. The food is always good no matter what. It’s great food. And some of the stuff that they do there is better than anywhere else. I don’t care how much money you pay. We had ravioli with braised escarole it was the best I’ve ever had. It was so good. That’s something that you never see anywhere else. It was just phenomenal. It was a great meal. Obelisk seats like 30 people, which is very quiet. It’s very quiet, service is great, everyone knows about wine. It’s not pretentious at all. They use a lot of seasonal high quality products.

Q: What are your guilty pleasures?

A: I eat a lot of junk food. I have the worse diet; the most unhealthy. They’re not even guilty pleasures; I’m pretty open about eating like McDonald’s, Hot dogs. I get like 8-9 McDonald’s cheeseburgers and ice cream. I like to make my own ice cream but I don’t get to do that very often. I’ll get a pint of Häagen-Dazs. I’m really big into candy. I like nerds and I like gummy candy too, sour patch are like my favorite. You can’t go wrong with sour patch kids.

Q: You were nominated for the 2009 RAMW Rising Culinary Star Award. If not you, who will win?

A: As far as that goes, if you look at the people that are nominated and you look at their accomplishments and what they’ve done. If you look at the title, “Rising Culinary Star” – I look at the guy from Central; Central got the Best New Restaurant from James Beard last year. As far as accomplishment goes, he shouldn’t be a Rising Culinary Star. As far as I’m concerned, he’s really on his way. He’s there. He’s doing a great job. So I don’t think he should win. I don’t think he should be nominated for that award. It’s almost an insult to him to be in that category. He’s 33 years old and working at Central. It’s an insult. Like what is his next step? He’s going to continue to work for Michel Richard and open less formal places because that’s what makes money and that’s the direction that he’s probably going in. I’ve never eaten at Central or Majestic. I’ve eaten at Zaytinya. I’ve eaten at Vermilion. Restaurant Eve is like the best restaurant in town and she (Shannon Overmiller) came from there. The fact that we’re recognized is great. I say “we” because Travis was recognized as Best Pastry Chef.

Q: You have both a solid culinary education, from CIA, and you have a lot of work experience, since you have been working in the industry since you were 15 years old. Which do you feel has been the most instrumental to your success?

A: Definitely not school that’s for sure; not to knock school. I would say once it again it’s either Aureole or my last job (Guy Savoy). Going to CIA was helpful but it wasn’t the most important. It definitely allowed me to meet people I met the people at Clyde’s. When I was 15, the woman who was the representative, she directed me to Clyde’s. If it wasn’t for CIA, I wouldn’t have gotten to Clyde’s, if it wasn’t for CIA, I wouldn’t have gone to Italy, If it wasn’t for CIA, I wouldn’t have gone to Aureole either. So in that sense, it might have been one of the most important things. I made a lot of connections at CIA. In terms of what I learned it would either be from Aureole or Guy Savoy. It was so eye opening there, just the way things were so refined; that this level of refinement exists in the kitchen. For example, I peeled walnuts with pairing knives and shucking peas out of the pod. In terms of technique and discipline you have to go to a kitchen like that.

Q: You’ve been with Clyde’s Restaurant Group for so long, if you could be the Chef at any DC restaurant, which would you choose? Why?

A: It would definitely be, as far as the space, and the restrictions, and how they run the place – a place like Komi. I respect that guy. I’ve eaten there and I didn’t think it was the greatest thing ever. He cut down the space of his restaurant so he could make better food and I really respect that. I really respect that about him; I’ve never met him but I really respect that – the fact he cut his restaurant down in size to make better food. A small restaurant where you can do anything you want. You don’t have to worry about pleasing these people and those people. You do what you want and people will come. The fact that he started at such a young age and was able to do it and just get it done. He’s a prime example of being a chef at a really young age and just developing yourself. He started and you see his menus of when he started they have nothing to do with what he is doing now. Trying to get better and getting better. I would love to do that.  

Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

A: I can see myself being here at least for two more years. I want to be here long enough to get it done. See it through. The next step from here would be for me to open my own place. I think it would be less than five years

Stay tuned for other exclusive interviews with DC’s Rising Culinary Stars. Cedric Maupillier from Central Michel Richard is next! The Rammys will be held on Sunday, June 7, 2009. There will be a follow-up feature about the winner of the Rising Culinary Star award and coverage from the Rammys awards gala.

For more info: Go to 1789, located at 1226 36th St., NW Washington, DC 20007 – Phone: (202) 965-1789

Hours: Open Mon-Thu 6pm-10pm; Fri 6pm-11pm; Sat 5:30pm-11pm; Sun 5:30pm-10pm;

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DC’s Rising Culinary Star Series

Each year the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) honors extraordinary professionals within the Washington, DC area restaurant industry at their Restaurant Awards Gala,“The RAMMYS”. Prominent restaurant employees, Chefs, and local restaurants are celebrated and recognized within thirteen award categories. In 2009, the five finalists for the “Rising Culinary Star” award are Cedric Maupillier from Central Michel Richard, Daniel Giusti from 1789, Mike Isabella from Zaytinya, Shannon Overmiller from Majestic Cafe, and Anthony Chittum from Vermilion.  As part of the “Rising Culinary Star Series”, each chef will be featured in an exclusive interview depicting their personal history, culinary experiences, and future aspirations.

Vermilion's Executive Chef, Anthony Chittum

Vermilion's Executive Chef, Anthony Chittum

Anthony Chittum, Executive Chef at Vermilion Restaurant in Old Town, Alexandria was lucky contestant number one.

Lisa Shapiro Question: What is your best or “signature dish”?

Anthony Chittum Answer:I have one per season. We change the menu each season and when that certain ingredient comes back around the following year, I’ll look at it and if I really like it we’ll put it back on the menu. We’ll tweak it a little bit.  There is a dish that we do in the winter, the roasted local rockfish that is a play on Chowder. It’s a puree with glazed celery, leek, and potato with a little smoked bacon and fried oysters as a garnish. The sauce is my “Chowder froth”. It’s definitely something that we do every year. I think it’s where it needs to be.

Q: What is your current favorite ingredient? Something that you use frequently on the current menu?

A: I’ve been playing with making my own mustard using fresh mustard seeds to create different flavors of mustards. I like mustard seeds and the heat from it much better than from pepper. Right now we have a green peppercorn, and a horseradish mustard and a basil mustard. It’s the mustard that is served with the hush puppies. We start with a basic Dijon, add maple syrup, and touch of mayonnaise.

Q: How did you get involved in the farm-to-table movement?

A: I grew up cooking in restaurants around the Annapolis area where everything is very seasonal. Some simple examples are, when Shad Roe is in season, we had it on the menu for a month and crab and corn chowder was always in the summer and we would have potato leek soup at night. When I moved to San Francisco in the late 90’s to work with Donald Link, it was just done out there. It wasn’t trendy, it’s just how it was done out there. Everyone always changed the menu. We had great local produce and we changed the menu constantly. So that was my foundation and then when I came back to DC, I worked for Todd Gray at Equinox. He was very much into seasonal food and changing the menu constantly and sourcing out the best farmers and the best products locally. In 2000, there were some restaurants doing it, but not to the extent that they are now. Now when Chefs start up their own place for the first time, it’s almost automatic and they’re changing their menus at least quarterly. People are more conscious about what they’re putting on the menu. It’s a tough competition. You have to offer the best of everything.

Q: What are your guilty pleasures?
A: I try to eat healthy, but I like pizza; but good pizza. I eat peanut butter by the spoonful. A Spoonful for me and a spoonful for the dog. I like sour patch kids. I’m not really a chocolate person. I like fruit and cheese instead of dessert.vermillion-restaurant

Q: What is your favorite dish on the current menu? (If your family came to the restaurant, what you would you insist that they try?)
A:My family came to the restaurant last week and I cooked for them. My mom doesn’t like spicy food so she had the roasted spring chicken with the faro salad with pine nuts, sugar snap peas, and currents. My Dad had the petite tenderloin & short rib “pastrami” with buttermilk blue cheese & potato galette and a little herb salad with olive oil and lemon. The pastrami is a little hot.

Q: Where do you get inspiration to create new dishes?

A: It’s a combination of a whole lot of different things; knowing the ingredients and their flavor components, and other flavor components that go with that. Everything has been done but you can tweak it to your taste. You have to go out and eat at other people’s restaurants and see what they’re doing. You can get inspiration almost anywhere. I went to Greece last summer and I got a lot of inspiration from there. When I came back from Greece, I played with some of the things that I loved when I was there. One of the dishes that we’re offering at the farm dinner coming up, such as the mixed grill with a combination of rabbit, beef, bison, from New Frontier Farms in Virginia, all different cuts. It’s a dish that I had at little restaurant on the water in Mykonos. We also did a beefsteak grilled flat bread, stuffed with feta, and a little bacon. I also loved the Loukaniko, or Greek sausage that I had in Greece. When I came back, I tried to recreate it. We put it on the menu for a little while.

Q: What are your current favorite restaurants?

A: I like Duangrat’s. I get the chef’s special pork and their black pepper calamari, it’s really good. I like going to Bastille in Old Town, it’s about a block from my house. They’re great friends and they always have something good on the menu and they have delicious desserts.

Q:You were nominated for the 2009 RAMW Rising Culinary Star Award. If not you, who will win?

 A:It’s a tough call. Cedric Maupillier works with Michel Richard, who is one of the best chefs in the country. It’s a great restaurant with a great reputation and a good following and it gets a lot of press. People know him. I assume that he will win.  But I love Zaytinya. It’s one of my favorite places to eat. The food is one of the closest things I have had since I went to Greece. Their chicken eggdrop soup with lemon is awesome. They have great food there.  I’ve also been to Majestic three or four times. It’s another great old town restaurant with great food and nice people.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

A: Like most Chefs, I’d like to own my own restaurant. It would definitely be in the DC area. I grew up in Maryland. This is where I belong. I love it here.

Stay tuned for other exclusive interviews with DC’s Rising Culinary Stars. Cedric Maupillier from Central Michel Richard and Daniel Giusti from 1789, are next. The Rammys will be held on Sunday, June 7, 2009. There will be a follow-up feature about the winner of the Rising Culinary Star award and coverage from the Rammy’s awards Gala.