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The Obamas Eat Their Way Through DC.

President Obama getting ready to chow down. Photo by Rick Bowmer-AP

First Eater, Chowhound-in-Chief, Executive Dining Officer, President Barack Obama has earned many o’nickname for his know how: how to dig in. Since moving to Washington, DC from Chicago, the Obamas have been out on the town quite a bit sampling new restaurants or dining out with staff and friends.  

Keeping with their tradition of Friday Night date nights, since before White House days, the Obamas have ventured out to some of DC’s top restaurants.  But when left to his own devises, it’s clear that the President prefers a juicy burger and chili considering the long list of burger joints he’s visited. Obama has also patronized local mom-and-pop places, such as the iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl.

The eateries the Obamas have visited have reported an unprecedented increase of business, instantly turning local establishments into international icons. Co-owner of Ben’s Chili Bowl said, “Since President Obama came, the line may have gotten longer but the look and feel of Ben’s will never change.”  If you’re in the nation’s capital and you’re looking to learn more about the President and First Lady, what better way to do that than through food?

Check out the FULL Article on DC Metro Magazine (page 14-16).

Lisa Shapiro is the Dining Editor for DC Metro Magazine.


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!

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!

Join Chef Todd Gray’s Web Chat about the “Chefs Move to Schools” initiative.

Did you know that one in three children in America are overweight or obese? The statistics are startling and there is only one way to tackle the problem — together. A comprehensive, collaborative, and community-oriented initiative started by First Lady Michelle Obama, the Let’s Move! campaign, has an ambitious national goal of solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight.  Let’s Move! will help to impact the health of children by providing schools, families and communities simple tools to help kids be more active, eat better, and get healthy.

“We are going to need everyone’s time and talent to solve the childhood obesity epidemic and our Nation’s chefs have tremendous power as leaders on this issue because of their deep knowledge of food and nutrition and their standing in the community. I want to thank them for joining the Let’s Move! Campaign” – First Lady Michelle Obama

Chefs across the country are answering Mrs. Obama’s call to get involved with their local schools as part of the Chefs Move to Schools initiative, run through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including Equinox Restaurant’s Executive Chef Todd Gray.

Chef Gray with Michelle Obama. Photo Courtesy of thewhofarm.org

On Monday, September 13th at 2 p.m, Equinox Restaurant’s Executive Chef Todd Gray will participate in a live web chat in conjunction with WHYY’s nationally broadcast “Chef’s Table,” to discuss his work with Michelle Obama’s “Chefs Move to Schools” initiative and his recent keynote speech at Michelle Obama’s White House breakfast introducing the Chef’s Move to Schools program. In addition, Chef Gray will discuss Adopting a School–his work here in the District of Columbia with the Murch school.

Chef Gray has been very active in the community and is an instrumental force in driving this movement. Not only is Todd Gray a Chef — he’s a parent! Interested in hearing about the Let’s Move! campaign? Join the conversation!

The First Annual Mid-Atlantic Red Fruit Festival and Recipe Contest.

Photo Courtesy of the Red Fruit Festival

On September 24, 2010 the First Annual Mid-Atlantic Red Fruit Festival will be held at the International Trade Center at the Ronald Reagan Building in downtown Washington, DC.  The Mid-Atlantic Red Fruit Festival is an annual reception that will focus on the spectacular regional produce of the Mid-Atlantic region by pairing top area farmers with leading area chefs.  Each year the event will showcase a “red” fruit such as strawberries, plums, cherries, currants, and 2010 kicks off with the tomato, perfect for summertime. Some of DC’s best notable chefs including Chef RJ Cooper, Xavier Deshayes, Kaz Okochi, and Todd Gray will participate as guests chefs by providing samples of a dish showcasing the honorary featured red fruit — the tomato.  The inspiration for each dish provided by the participating featured guest chefs will be drawn from a finalist of the recipe contest provided by a home cook.  The tomato recipe contest is open to all, including food bloggers, home cooks, gardeners, and tomato-enthusiasts. Entries must include locally-sourced tomatoes and must be procured from the Mid-Atlantic region (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia) to qualify.  Fifteen of the featured home chefs will be awarded prizes in 5 contest categories and have a top area chef cook their winning recipe.  The call for recipes includes Soups and Salsas; Beverages; Tarts, Pies and Quick Breads; Salads; and Sauces.

Photo by Olga Berman, Mango and Tomato

In addition to providing farmers and chefs with an opportunity to engage with enthusiastic home gardeners and cooks with tomato tastings and wine pairings, the Mid-Atlantic Red Fruit Festival is the home of SEEDS TO SCHOOLS, a landmark public drive that collects and redistribute seeds to schools and community gardens in our region that have a demonstrated commitment to engaging children with life science and nutrition. SEEDS TO SCHOOLS supports the teachers and public volunteers who share the wonder of planting, nurturing, harvesting and preparing one’s own food. In addition, the festival has also partnered with Common Good City Farm, an urban farm and education center growing food for low-income residents in Washington, DC and providing educational opportunities for all people helping to increase food security, improve health, and contribute to environmental sustainability.

The Mid-Atlantic Red Fruit Festival is a satellite event of the International Wine and Food Festival and has the support of TastePost, an exclusive online community of food and beverage enthusiasts created by The Washington Post.  Public admission will cost $35. For more information: The Mid-Atlantic Red Fruit Festival

Woodrow Wilson Plaza at the International Trade Center and Ronald Reagan Building :: 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC

Tickets still available for Urban Farm Table Dinner Aug 5 with DC’s notable Chefs.

There is something about summertime that gives people the urge to eat outdoors — to soak up the sun and stars and be one with nature.  We can’t help but believe that summer’s bounty tastes best when enjoyed outside. As soon as the weather is warm enough, DC area restaurants open their patios for al fresco dining knowing that people prefer to dine outdoors. The event coordinators behind Washington, DC’s annual International Food and Wine Festival  will debut the Urban Farm Table, a series of one-of-a-kind dining experiences that will launch on this Thursday, August 5, 2010 with a four-course celebration  prepared by leading local chefs including Todd Gray of Equinox and Tiffany MacIssac of Birch & Barley and ChurchKey in an exceptional one-night-only setting: Woodrow Wilson Plaza.

This incredible meal will be served at long communal tables under the stars in the center of Woodrow Wilson Plaza at the Ronald Reagan Building (1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW). The Urban Farm Table on the Plaza will gather diners in an unprecedented cityscape and share access to the producers and creators of fine food. In addition, the Washington Wine Academy will pair summer wines with each dish. The invitation to the Urban Farm Table on the Plaza extends the mission of the International Food and Wine Festival: to connect diners with leading local and international producers and chefs, but for an exclusive celebration. The presenting chefs for Urban Farm Table on the Plaza are Olivier Perret of Ici Urban Bistro; Todd Gray of Equinox; Xavier Deshayes of Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center; and Tiffany MacIssac of Birch & Barkey and ChurchKey.

Organizer and co-owner of Equinox restaurant said, Ellen Kassoff Gray, “The Urban Farm Table on the Plaza offers much more than a barbeque with a bureaucratic backdrop. We know it’ll be a special evening for our 80 guests, and I’m sure it will inspire people to consider not just what they eat but how they celebrate community.”

The “star-studded” evening has been timed for maximum twinkle: canapes will be passed at sunset (8p.m.), and guests will be called to the table at dusk (8:45 p.m.). There are still some General admission tickets available for $70; $60 for Tastepost.com members.  Paid parking will available in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. For more information see here.


Urban Farm Table on the Plaza, August 5, 2010

Canape Reception

Kluge Estate and Winery Blanc de Blanc NV (Charlottesville, VA)

Olivier Perret: Ici Urban Bistro

Sweet Pea Veloute with Grilled Carolina Day Boat Shrimp, Pea Tendrils, Olive Oil Foam

Albrecht Reisling Reserve 2009 (Alsace, France)

Todd Gray, Equinox Restaurant

Grilled Golden River Trout with Summer Succotash, Benton’s Tennessee Ham, Sweet Corn Vinaigrette

Nautilus Pinot Noir 2008 (Marlborough, NZ)

Xavier Deshayes, Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center

Fire Roasted Ayreshire Farm Beef Striploin and Stuffed Baby Zucchini with Morel Mushrooms, Roquefort Beurre “Maitre d’Hotel”

Bodega Weinert Malbec 2004 (Argentina)

Tiffany MacIssac: Birch & Barkey and ChurchKey

Jasmine Tea Mousse, Plum Sorbet with Coconut Cream and Yuzu

Saracco Moscato d’Asti 2009 (Italy)

Equinox is Back!

Co-owners Chef Todd and Ellen Gray and the whole Equinox crew are back! Equinox is officially open for business, as of yesterday, June 1 and are celebrating their re-opening after being closed six months due to a Kitchen Fire in December.  Today, I had the fortunate opportunity to speak to Ellen about what Washingtonians can expect with the reopening of the restaurant.

You can hear the smile in her voice as she says, “We’re the same … our bones and structure haven’t changed, but we’ve put on a fresh new bright face.  It’s like taking clean fresh white sheets right out of the dryer. People like us for who we are but we’ve put on a refreshed face.”  The new interior has become brighter and more modern. Ellen says, “All of the wood was taken out. There is a lot of new glass.”  Tim Carman of the City Paper offers a “Sneak Peek” with excellent photos of thew new inside (see above). Included in his write up Carman states, “The most important change of all: The new hood system includes a switch that, when you turn it off, it blows out the pilot light for the ovens and burners. The pilot light apparently triggered December’s fire, Ellen Gray said.”

As for the menu, Ellen says that, “Todd is a strong believer in, ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it’ so the menu isn’t going to change that much but we have expanded our offerings.” Ellen adds, “gone is the day of the big heavy tasting menu, so we wanted to lighten it up a bit.”

Ellen says, “American diners have moved more towards small plates–  ordering a few appetizers so we will now offer, ‘For the Table’ which will be some new dishes designed for sharing.” Another change on the menu is the option to choose which sides you want along side of your protein. You can order your fish, chicken, or steak grilled, sauteed, etc and then choose your three sides. The options for what accompanies a dish has expanded. Todd’s tasting menu called, the “Market Menu” for his legion of  followers, will still be available, with a vegetarian and regular option. “Some diners have been coming and eating here for 20 years”. Equinox opened its doors in 1999. “There are some people who come in and don’t even want to look at a menu. They just let Todd do what he does.”

Photo couresty of Equinox.com

Ellen explains,”It’s a split menu. This is our attempt to reach out to a new diner — a more market savvy diner. The menu appeals to both personalities of diners.” Chef Todd and Ellen themselves, who have been married for 15 years, are very different in their dining styles. Ellen while laughing says, “I probably drink more wine than eat food. I will have a little something followed by a cheese course in the end. Todd doesn’t eat that way.”  On a side note, Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray were married on Earth Day. The couple’s dedicated to their principle of providing sustainable and seasonal food earth’s natural rhythms began on day 1. Their restaurant’s namesake, Equinox represents its commitment to seasonal cooking using products harvested in accordance with the environment and the earth’s natural tempo.  Chef Gray is committed to his mission of sourcing locally by using community-farmed, organic ingredients grown within 100 miles of the restaurant, whenever possible.

So there are changes … but not in the heart of Equinox. Some developments to look forward to in the future: Equinox is considering a Sunday brunch and possible BBQs on the patio for the summer months. Ellen said that they are usually closed for the 4th of July; however, this year they will be open and celebrating with good food.

The outdoor patio is open and seats up to 40 people. K Street Kate listed Equinox in it’s top ten of  Top Ten most popular places to dine outdoors in DC. It was included because of it’s “fine dining with a view of the most famous of DC landmarks.”

In addition to the patio and main dining room, Equinox has three private dining spaces seating 12 to 55.

In other news, recently, Chef Gray has been tapped by the Obama administration to consult on carrying out the mission of the First Lady of the United States to put healthier food on the table at lunch time for our nations children.

They have just signed a new 10 year lease. Ellen says they plan to be there another 9 years. I am sure that I can speak for everyone when I say, “Welcome back, Equinox! You have been missed.”