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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.


A Clean Life: The Case for Local Food at “Take Back Food” Ladies’ Luncheon.

This is not your mom’s Tupperware party. Not like there is anything wrong with that but let’s be honest. Times have changed. I’m a modern woman with a family who cares about the environment, my children’s health, and even more their education but I admit that I’m obsessed with food. I read that 2/3 of the United States’ population is considered overweight or obese and food waste does more damage to the environment than the BP oil spill. With First Lady Michelle Obama’s recent Let’s Move campaign to end Child Obesity, more now than ever we realize that food plays a greater role in the well-being of our society. My kids know that when I am away from home I’m at a restaurant. I’m sure that my six-year-old son, Alex means well but he has made comments to me about my weight. I could set a better example for my kids. I plan to … and I’m going to start now.

Amy Senger. Photo by Jared Goralnick

I’m looking forward to attending my first “Ladies’ only” event this Sunday at Zola Wine and Kitchen;  however, I can say that most of the media events that I attend are predominantly female. I’m surprised that there aren’t more aspiring male food writers especially since all the big dogs in DC Todd Kliman, Tom Sietsema, Warren Rojas, are all men. I’m attending because I think the topic of discussion is interesting; however, I’m sure that there will be a handful of attendees that are going just to catch a glimpse of hearthrob Chef, Barton Seaver. I’ve met him before, so that’s not the reason I’m excited.

This event on Sunday, “Take Back Food” Ladies’ Luncheon will feature Amy Senger, (pictured above) adviser and advocate for A Clean Life. She will share her personal story of improving health through living a fresh, local food, zero-waste lifestyle and the impact it’s had on her body and personal well-being as well as the benefits it has on the environment. It’s going to be an eye-opening discussion. Senger promises to open all of our eyes about what we’re eating, what big food industry, including the U.S. government, is doing to undermine citizens personal health (and why it’s causing so many people to struggle with their weight), and the one simple change we can do to combat it.

Chef Barton Seaver. Photo by Marvin Joseph, Washington Post.

Now for the eye candy who needs no introduction in the restaurant industry. Chef Barton Seaver is credited with bringing the concept of sustainable seafood to the nation’s capitol and last year he earned Esquire magazine’s ‘Chef of the Year’.

For those are who are interested, the afternoon will include:

  • A special guest appearance by Barton Seaver, DC chef extraordinaire, advocate and National Geographic Fellow as he shares he personal mission to change food culture
  • Sparkling wine provided by local Virginia winery Thibaut-Janisson (featured at the first Obama state dinner)
  • A seasonal, locally-sourced meal prepared by Stir Food Group Executive Chef Bryan Moscatello
  • Limited signed copies (for purchase) of locavore leader Alice Waters’ latest cookbook, In The Green Kitchen

Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online.

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!

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.”

Under the Toque at Citronelle. Lisa spends a day in the back of the house.

Lisa Shapiro with the kitchen staff at Citronelle Michel Richard (Photo by Jenna Duffy)

How can this be work? This is so much fun!” I said. After spending an entire day in the kitchen at Citronelle Michel Richard, however, I realized that it is indeed a lot of hard work. David Deshaies and his team, including Sous-Chef Thomas Hauck, spend an average of 12 hours, 5 days a week in the kitchen rushing around spending all day on their feet. I guess it could be fun, fulfilling and rewarding, especially if you are as passionate about what you do as David is. Being a Chef is not just a career to him, it’s a life’s work, and at just 31 years old David is the Executive Chef at Citronelle Michel Richard, arguably the best fine dining restaurant in Washington, DC.

Under the direction of world-renown Chef, Michel Richard, David has spent the last eight years helping Citronelle distinguish itself as being one of the most innovative French restaurants specializing in modern techniques. Michel’s artistic avant-garde techniques are whimsical and clever. He has a talent for tricking one’s senses. In regards to Michel’s style of cooking, what you see is not always what you get. For example, what appears to be a slice of a hard boiled egg is really made of mozzarella cheese and yellow tomato puree – Michel’s own fools gold.

David’s Fruit Pizza

David has also learned these techniques and has applied them to some of his own dishes. His latest creation, the “Fruit Pizza” is served as a tart with rhubarb puree, which resembles the tomato sauce used on a traditional pizza, topped with fresh seasonal fruit: strawberries, rhubarb, figs, and banana. The Chef serves the fruit pizza tableside and completes the illusion by grating white chocolate on top; much like one would add fresh parmesan cheese. David explained that the fruit pizza, “is a new dish on the menu. It is very difficult to add a new dish to our menu. The fruit pizza was featured as daily special for three days and then we added it to the menu. It’s been on the menu for one week. We have gotten a great response so far.” I loved the new dish. What’s not to like?

Citronelle, located at the Latham hotel in Georgetown is well known for various “signature” dishes, including Michel Richard’s 72 hour braised short ribs, Tuna Salad Niçoise, Eggs symphony, and the Mosaic. Parts of the menu have not changed significantly over the years, Chef David says, due to the restaurant’s reputation world wide. Some of the most highly esteemed dignitaries in the world travel from all over to dine at Citronelle, and would be disappointed to find these dishes removed from the menu. Closer to home, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle dined at Citronelle recently. The President ordered the 72 hour braised short ribs and Michelle ordered the Lobster burger. They shared the soft shell appetizer and the crème brûlée for dessert. Luckily Citronelle had the ribs on the menu and perhaps avoided a national catastrophe. David recalls the evening, “I was anxious! It is not every day that you cook for the most powerful man on a planet! Especially since a chef from the white house was checking everything that we put on a plate and the secret service was in every corner of the dining room, but it was very nice. It was a beautiful evening for all of us!” Serving VIPs and dealing with security is all in a days work for David and the rest of the staff at Citronelle. The Saturday afternoon that I was at the restaurant, the President of Egypt had a dinner reservation; however, just before service began, they canceled. Maitre D, Jean-Jacques Retourne and Public Relations Coordinator, Mel Davis suggested that the Egypt’s President had reservations at several restaurants all over town for security reasons. I think that it would have been exciting to see the Egyptian dignitary but I also think it would have made the dinner service more hectic.

To Read the Full Article … Click HERE …

Citronelle on Urbanspoon