• 08Feb

    About six months ago, restaurateur and James Beard Foundation Award winner, Michael Richard passed away. His loss will be felt in the DC restaurant world.

    I was lucky to attend Sweet Hope, an annual charity event to benefit St. Jude’s Childrens Research Hospital a couple of months ago, and am happy to report that Central is producing desserts of the same quality and deliciousness of previous years. Above are some of the image highlights. Here, here (featuring an image of Michel), and here are three of our previous articles that featured this great French chef and his food.

    -JAY

  • 25Dec

    We recently attended Michel Richard‘s Sweet Hope dessert for toys event at Central. The event benefits St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. There’s nothing like the combination of  happy children, balloon animals, and amazingly delicious desserts! Above are pictures of some of the highlights of the event.

    I have never been disappointed by Michel’s establishments, and I hear he has a new restaurant in NYC, Villard.

    -JAY

    Central Michel Richard on Urbanspoon

  • 29Mar

    Michel creating the "smoked salmon croquet madames" he is about to hand us.

    I was fortunate to attend the “announcement party” at Central for Michel Richard’s new restaurant (tentatively named “Michel”) at the The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner (in the old Maestro space).

    At the beginning of the event, I was (intentionally) positioned to watch Michel make some “small bites,” which he handed to the three of us.  At one point, Michel was in the corner of the room surrounded by his staff.  I wandered over into his tight group and started a conversation with him.  I’d never met Michel before and was very impressed with him because he is personable, passionate, and expressive and makes people immediately feel comfortable.  He is also funny: (spoken in a French accent) “I like cheeses that smell like my feet when my wife gives me foot rubs.”

    Half of the time my gaze kept being drawn back to their house made charcuterie–intensely red cured hams, and salamis sitting right in front of me on the meat slicers.  $22 for a charcuterie plate (from their lunch menu).

    I skipped the two mushroom dishes (due to an allergy) but one diner told me that a mushroom dish was the best thing she had that night.  Everything I had was tasty, but my favorite was the croquet madame, of which I had several; the cheese, black bread, and salmon in the teeny sandwiches were an amazing combination.  The deviled eggs were great but they did have (raw) meat in them! Yum! I tried the two red wines, and both were good but I preferred the tempranillo (the heavier wine).  Below is a list of what we were served.

    I HAD to take a picture of the charcuterie.

    Wines:

    Bailly Lapierre, Crémant De Bourgogne, Blanc de Blancs, France 2007 – (Chardonnay)

    Bourgogne Blanc, Michel Richard, Domaine Maillard, Burgundy, France 2007 – ( Chardonnay)

    Domaine Coteau De La Biche, Vouvray, Loire, France 2008 – (Chennin Blanc)

    Bodegas Muaurodos, Prima, Tora , Spain 2006 – (Tempranillo)

    Frederic Mabileau, St Nicolas de Bourgueil, Loire, France 2006 – (Cabernet Franc)

    Hors d’oeuvres:

    Mushroom croquet monsieur – duxelle of mushrooms, Swiss cheese, whole wheat bread

    Smoked salmon croquet madame – smoked salmon, Swiss cheese, black bread

    Gougeres (cheese puffs) – gruyere and parmesan cheese

    Mushroom Tarts – mushrooms and gruyere cheese

    Deviled steak & eggs – hard boiled eggs stuffed with beef tartar

    -JAY

  • 24Dec

    Michel Richard’s Central has continued to hold a annual benefit for St. Jude Children’s Hospital, even a year and a half after his death. A few weeks ago, we were thrilled to sample Central Michel Richard‘s delicious French desserts and donate toys to St Jude. Above are some images of of the highlights from this benefit.

    Our Previous coverage of Michel and his events can be found here. You can easily see how he was a beloved fixture in the DC restaurant scene.

    Happy Holidays everyone!

    -JAY

     

  • 13Dec

    Today we attended the Sweet Hope, Dessert for Toys Reception at Michel Richard’s Central. Toys were collected for St Jude Children’s Hospital. I even got a chance to say talk to Restauranteur/Chef Bart Vandaele, who was in attendance. We look forward to this event every year. Pictures from the event are above.

    -JAY

  • 19Mar

    I attended the Travel & Adventure Show in DC last weekend, and had the opportunity to meet the author of 1000 Places To See Before You Die, Patricia Schultz. She also is the Producer of a Travel Channel show of the same name. Below is my interview with Patricia:

    JAY: What foods you bring with you when you travel abroad (and why)?

    Patricia: I bring power bars for in-between meals and anything bite-size sweet for night time so I don’t attack the hotel minibar.

    JAY: What foods do you bring as gifts when you travel?

    Patricia: If I am bringing a gift, I go to Li-Lac Chocolates in NYC for their chocolate NYC icons such as the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building.

    JAY: What foods do you want to try before you die? (These are foods you have not tried.) It could be food of a place you haven’t been yet or just something you haven’t tried.

    Patricia: There is much of the Nordic cuisine movement sweeping through Scandinavia that I haven’t yet sampled.

    JAY: What foods do you think everyone should try before they die?

    Patricia: Bistecca alla Toscana in Florence or environs, Moroccan food in the ancient Casbah in Marrakesh or Fez, Chinese in a hole-in-the-wall family-run eatery in the Hutongs or back alleyways of Beijing, or a bbq under the stars with South African wines after a full day of safari in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. The setting should be as delicious as the food.

    JAY: What drinks do you think everyone should try before they die?

    Patricia: I am not much of a wine connoisseur but I enjoy sampling the wines from whatever country I go to. And the same when I am traveling in the US. They say each of the 50 states has some degree of wine production, be it ever so humble. Who knew Texas had wine? The Hill Country outside Austin does some nice stuff.

    JAY:  What desserts do you think everyone should try before they die?

    Pavlova from New Zealand, the artistic creations you see in Vienna’s pastry shops, really good, dense, honey saturated baklava from Greece, and tiny, wild strawberries in season drizzled with Balsamic vinegar like only the Italians can get away with.

    JAY:  What are places you visited where you were surprised at how much you enjoyed the food?

    Patricia:  Lima, Peru.

    JAY: Best Airplane meal you have had?

    Patricia:  Is this a trick question? I’ve never had a good meal on an airplane.

    JAY:  You live in NYC. Which restaurants would you recommend as “must try”?  I met you in DC and my site is based in DC, so please answer the same question for DC.

    Patricia NYC: for a splash-out memorable (and expensive) evening out, Le Bernardin; for Woodie Allen fun the mile-high pastrami sandwiches at Carnegie Deli; for a little bit of Italy the tiny Salumeria Rosi on the Upper West Side north of Lincoln Center.

    D.C. The pop-up restaurant of America Eats by Jose Andres before it disappears July 4th and the wonderful talents of Michel Richard in the casual environs of Central.

    JAY:  You’re going to die (eventually). What would you like your last meal to be? You can combine items from different countries/locations, or not.

    Patricia: I lived for 5 years in Tuscany. I would like a very simple, very authentic Tuscan dinner made with fresh ingredients from those rolling hills – enhanced with local olive oil and a super Toscano red as the sun sets over one of Italy’s most beautiful corners.

    Patricia is working on the food version of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. I’m looking forward to reading it when it hits the shelves.

    -JAY

    ————————–

    Check out my friend’s Costa Rica Tours and don’t forget to use the code “TOUCAN” to save money. He has some group tours that you can join.

    -JAY

     

  • 12May

    Jose Andres, on the left.

    The 2011 James Beard Foundation Awards held Monday, May 9th finally brought recognition to DC’s own Jose Andres, naming him Outstanding Chef for his most exclusive and creative D.C. endeavor, minibar, after three previous nominations in the same category.  That award, which last year went to celebrity chef and Top Chef host/producer/judge Tom Colicchio, capped the raucous and enthusiastic event.  And, in accepting his award, Andres did not disappoint.  Addressing the crowd as “People of America,” not only did he give thanks to lots of deserving people (including his mentor Ferran Adria, his wife Patricia – whom he forgot to thank in his 2003 acceptance speech for Best Chef: Mid Atlantic, and his staff), but he interspersed joy with seriousness, noting the power of food— asserting that it can end hunger and end obesity.

    This is a banner year for Andes.  He will also receive the Duke Zeibert Capital  Achievement Award at this year’s RAMMY awards—DC’s own version of the James Beard Awards run by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington to be held on Sunday, June 26; and the 60 minutes segment on Andres won Best Television Segment at the Beard Media Awards held on May 6.

    Yigit Pura's dessert.

    Other than Andres’ somewhat expected win, the event provided a number of surprises.  Rising Star Chef of the Year went to Gabriel Rucker of Portland Oregon’s Le Pigeon, the first such award for an Oregonian.  Rucker beat out NYC’s darling Cristina Tosi who helms David Chang’s Momofuku Milk Bar.  In the regional category, for Best Chef: New York City, underdog Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune Restaurant beat out heavy hitters Wylie Dufresne (wd-50), Michael White (Marea), Michael Anthony (Gramercy Tavern), and April Bloomfield (nominated for The Spotted Pig, but also touted for Breslin Bar and the new John Dory Oyster Bar).  In the Mid-Atlantic category (which previous winner Andres presented before his win), DC’s Johnny Monis (Komi), Cathal Armstrong (Restaurant Eve), and Peter Pastan (Obelisk) lost out to Philadelphia’s Michael Solomonov (Zahav).  And in Best Chef: Southwest,  Tyson Cole of Austin, TX (Uchi) grudgingly shared the award with Saipin Chutima of Las Vegas (Lotus of Siam) as the result of a tie.

    Other awards were less surprising.  Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s well-regarded ABC

    The crowd, including WD-50s Wyle Dufresne.

    Kitchen won Best New Restaurant; Outstanding Wine Service went to Belinda Chang of Danny Meyer’s the Modern; and Thomas Keller’s pricey Time Warner Center Per Se took the Outstanding Serviced Award.  New York’s beloved Danny Meyer, and his popular and highly regarded Eleven Madison Park, took home both Outstanding Restaurant and Outstanding Pastry Chef (for the lovely Angela Pinkerton).

    Once the awards were handed out, guests flowed out of Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall theater into the Awards Gala reception, featuring tastings from several of the nominees and winners, including three D.C. locals: Andres (who served as Gala Co-Chair along with Top Chef Masters alums Floyd Cardoz and Susan Feniger), Rasika’s Vikram Sunderam, and Michel Richard of Citronelle and Central. Guy Savoy’s Artichoke and Black Truffle Soup with Toasted Mushroom Brioche and Black Truffle Butter was the consensus favorite, although Top Chef: Just Desserts winner Yigit Pura’s chocolate concoction (ridiculously named Tonka Bean-Infused Chocolate Cremux with Organic Mulberry Compote, Floral Red Fruit Tea, and Chocolate Puffs) surely delighted chocoholics.

    Michel Richard's "eggstravagaza."

    After parties were plentiful.  Daniel Boulud’s newly opened French market Epicerie Boulud and his not yet opened (it opened the next day) Boulud Sud, which share a kitchen, propped the doors separating the two, and threw the whole place open for extensive apps and flowing drinks.  Eleven Madison Park, which last year was apparently “trashed” at the after party, hosted again, and again was the wildest place to be. Andres, who began the evening at Epicerie, left walking arm in arm down Broadway with White House Assistant Chef and Food Initiative Coordinator  Sam Kass, presumably towards the more refined after party at Per Se.  No word on whether he made it to the party hosted by the guys behind Best New Restaurant nominee Torrisi Italian Specialties and David Chang’s Momofuku team at the Jane Hotel.

    The entire list of winners can be found at http://jamesbeard.org/files/2011_JBF_Awards_Winners.pdf

    -Written by recurring Guest Blogger, Lisa Bornstein (LMB)

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  • 17Feb

    Robert Wiedmaier has a wonderful butcher shop (The Butcher’s Block) next door to his restaurant, Brabo. Butcher’s Block is one of my favorite stores in the DC area.

    I find different items every time I visit this store. On previous visits, I have found items such as homemade sausages (regular, merguez and breakfast), duck breasts, duck confit, bison hangar steak, burgers from dry-aged meat, lardo and coutry pate’. Butcher’s Block also has a daily soup, and I’ve tried three (all of which were delicious): chestnut, kale (with ham) butternut squash. They also make their own salsa, duck fat and veal stock and often have baguettes and a variety of Michel Richard‘s smoked fish. You can usually find desserts (that are made for the store by an outside baker) such as kiwi tarts, clementine tarts and pineapple cookies; these baked items change often so don’t expect to see the same ones twice.

    The Butcher’s Block has wonderful high-quality products at affordable prices, and is only a couple of blocks from King Street Metro.

    The Butcher’s Block
    1600 King Street
    Alexandria, VA 22314
    (703) 894-5253

    -JAY

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  • 25Jan

    Has any other lousy restaurant generated as much print for closing, both through blogs and through dead trees, as The Brickskeller? With all the words, you’d have though Michel Richard was retiring and taking Carole Greenwood, Ris Lacoste, Will Artley and three overpriced cupcake shops out with him. I suppose it’s a natural response. The food scene in D.C. is full of people who like to eat and feel compelled to write about it as though we all give a crap. But the large amount of tribute pieces and resulting comments demonstrate a certain grudging love and palpable vitriol towards the place that belied its lousy chow. “It’s a legendary bar!” was counterpointed with “they were always out of the beer you wanted!” has become the modern DC beer wonk’s “tastes great, less filling!” of a previous generation.  Resulting cheers of “It showed Americans real beer!” and “Where else could you get beer from Angola?” were equally jeered with “the place has been outclassed by newer places like Rustico and Churchkey” and “they had the surliest waitstaff on the planet.”

    Of course, like so many other things in DC, both sides are ultimately right. Certainly The Brickskeller was not as clean or as professional as the newer beer-centric places in the region. And it was amazing that in an era in which a humble blogger can sit at his desk and and query what’s the current number one single in Romania – Americandrim by Puya featuring Connect-R at the moment – that the Brickskeller’s staff never had a clue as to what beers were in stock at any given time. But the joint really was a hell of a beer bar – as recently as 15 years ago, many other bars in the area considered Killian’s Irish Red an import (from exotic, foreign Colorado?) and few places could offer an alcoholic taste of home for foreign staffers stationed at a nearby Embassy Row outpost. To be fair, The Brickskeller was not a place you went to eat with a song in your heart and a skip in your gait, but at least it was cheap crappy food.

    53 years in business is not something to discount.  The Brickskeller was founded in 1957 in what was truly a different city. Ike was starting his second term as President. Wham-O started making Frisbees. The Soviet Union launched Sputnik I. A young couple in Arlington named the Courics celebrated the birth of their daughter, Katie. The Beltway was still in the planning stages; the race riots that ruined neighborhoods were still a decade away. Ben’s Chili Bowl was still another year away from opening. Tyson’s Corner was basically an orchard. Ballston was better known as Parkington. My father was attending grade school in Kensington, and my mother was in elementary school in Pennsylvania, a few years before she moved with my grandmother to Arlington.

    A few short years later, a young legal secretary would meet the assistant manager of the Hot Shoppes on Wisconsin Avenue, and they went to The Brickskeller. The secretary had done some promotional modeling photos for The Top of The Bricks, a club that had a run above The Brickskeller. The model/secretary wasn’t much of a drinker, but the coffee shop manager wanted to drink something that wasn’t quite as caffeinated as Hot Shoppes’ brew. 25 years later, this young couple’s offspring entered The Brickskeller for the first time while doing promotional work for Harpoon Brewery, not knowing that his parents had drank their fool asses silly in the same place 26 years earlier.  A harmless phone call from the son to his mother a few days later revealed the potential link to drunken debauchery at The Brickskeller and the son’s very existence.

    So, I want to say “thank you” to The Bricks for introducing me to Rogue’s Smoke Ale, the world of strawberry lambics, and the concept of ordering three beers at a time since the first two were probably out. Thanks for turning an ordinary happy hour with some friends in 2006 into a meeting with an Australian gent who did combat photography in Africa and made that Dos Equis’campaign about the Most Interesting Man in the World look like a Midwestern PTA club president. Thanks for the mouse who ran across a fellow patron’s foot last year, causing a world-class spit-take. And, I guess I should thank you for your possible role  in my eventual conception.

    ************************************************

    The Brickskeller got 19 of a potential 38 Whammies! Whammies! were earned for the groundbreaking concept in this `burg, the “come as you are” attitude, and for giving my mom a job back in the 1960s. Whammies! were deducted for never having an accurate beer list, mediocre food, and for making me see a picture of my mom in a mini-skirt with a then-young-and-very-eligible bachelor Maury Povich. That’s a mental image that no amount of beer can ever erase.

    *************************************************

    WRITER’S NOTE – I originally wrote this piece a few weeks ago, but held out posting it because I was trying to find the old ad that featured my mom. My aunt used to have the old postcard, but couldn’t find it when I inquired. My mom doesn’t have a copy of it, just the memories of being young, carefree, and dancing with a guy who would curse us with years of cringe-worthy television. I did update the current #1 single in Romania, so, um, there’s that.

  • 03Nov

    GiadaDeLaurentiis_0This is your reminder that this show is in DC this weekend at the Walter Washington Convention Center. I’ve been to it in the past and it’s  a good show – I even volunteered at it one year and got to see the Dean Brothers in action.  I’m seeing the Neely’s presentation this year.

    Here is the show’s facebook.

    ———————-

    Come meet Food Network celebrities Paula Deen, Giada De Laurentiis, Tyler Florence, Guy Fieri, and the Neelys!

    The Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show features more than 250 exhibitors, live cooking demonstrations by nationally renowned chefs, tasting and entertaining workshops, plus presentations from Food Network celebrities.

    This is a one-of-a kind event for anyone who loves to cook or entertain!

    DC’s hottest chefs presenting culinary demonstrations at the upcoming event include:
    -Chef Victor Albisu, BLT Steak
    -Chef Cathal Armstrong & Todd Thrasher, Restaurant Eve, Eammon’s, The Majestic
    -Chef RJ Cooper, Vidalia
    -Chef David Deshaies, Michel Richard Citronelle
    -Chef Daniel Giusti, 1789 Restaurant
    -Diane Gross, CORK Wine Bar
    -Chef Mike Hanratty, Mie N Yu
    -Chef Mike Isabella, Zaytinya
    -Chef Jamie Leeds, Hank’s Oyster Bar, CommonWealth
    -Chef Patrice Olivon, L’Academie de Cuisine
    -Khalid Pitts, CORK Wine Bar
    -Chef Barton Seaver, Blue Ridge
    -Chef Bryan Voltaggio, VOLT
    -Pastry Chef Thomas Wellings, Equinox
    -Chef Robert Wiedmaier, Brabo, Brasserie Beck, Marcel’s

    ——————————-

    Here is the show’s schedule of events.

    -JAY

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