Dinner Parties

EDITOR’S NOTE: We received a review copy of The New Jewish Table and were impressed with the way Chef Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray had successfully updated so many of the traditional dishes we recognized in ways that incorporated lighter, fresher flavors.  When they followed it up with an invitation to observe the Passover Seder with them, we wanted to make sure that we were able to truly compare charoset to charoset, so we asked our friends and frequent Capital Spice contributors to attend and let us know how the Grays’ Passover compared with the ones they’ve observed with their families over the years.

Monday night, the Bacon Terrorist and Itty Bitty Betty attended a special Passover Seder hosted by Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray at their Equinox restaurant to celebrate the launch of their cookbook, The New Jewish Table. The night highlighted three items from the book’s suggested Passover menu encapsulating the Grays’ seasonality-first philosophy as they bring treasured Jewish classics into the twenty-first century.

Why was this night’s dinner different from all other Seders?  Find out after the jump. (more…)




The first time we sat down with our friends the Bacon Terrorist and Boozy Betty to rate pumpkin beers, they were still something of a novelty to us.  We gathered 13, largely the most widely available brands, and we had no trouble crowning Southern Tier’s Pumking the winner.  What a difference three years make…

Since then, it’s become much easier to locate all kinds of small-batch labels around the area.  And it seems like almost every brewer out there has jumped on the pumpkin bandwagon.  Out in Seattle last weekend, Elysian Brewing Company hosted their “Great Pumpkin Beer Festival,” where they sampled 60 pumpkin beers – including 13 different offerings of their own!

We knew it was time to sit down and revisit our ratings.  Would Pumking reign uncontested?  Or would one of the new crop rise to claim the throne?

To find out, we gathered as many different pumpkin beers as we could over the span of a month.  Many of our finds came from Total Wine & More in Alexandria (where almost every beer they sell is available in singles as well as six-packs) and Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, though a few others were collected here and there along the way.  We also found a second pair of willing tasters, our friends KentuckyFrench and the Yankee Sipper.

A rundown of all the competitors with tasting notes after the jump. (more…)


Sure, we all try to be more conscious of where our food comes from these days.  To make sure you’re putting as few steps as possible between the farm and your table, you can shop the farmers’ market week after week, or join a CSA, or even try your hand at growing some of your own produce.  But when it comes to dining out, it takes a bit more diligence to ensure that you’re making good choices.

Photo by Moshe Zusman provided by Ellen Gray

One of the local chefs who has been extolling the virtues of the “Fresh, Local, Seasonal” mindset since before locavores knew what to call themselves is Todd Gray.  The chef who recently brought Watershed to NoMA has been cooking in time with the seasons at Equinox for more than a dozen years.  Last year, he got together with the people behind the annual International Wine and Food Festival to create a one-of-a-kind dining experience: the Urban Farm Table Under the Stars.

The Urban Farm Table was a chance for four local chefs to partner with local producers and really show off their fresh, seasonal ingredients to the best of their abilities.  Guests sat at long communal tables on the Woodrow Wilson Plaza of the International Trade Center and Ronald Reagan Building.  It was such a success that they’ll be back for a second seating on Friday, June 17th.

Details on tickets and a sneak peek at this year’s menu after the jump. (more…)


Take a second and think about the seven people you hang out with most often.  Where did you meet them?  How long have you known them?

Chances are “work” and “school” figured prominently in your answers, especially here in Washington.  It’s hard to strike up a meaningful conversation with a random person in a bar that doesn’t start with “So, what do you do?” and end with a hookup attempt.  The guy looking over your shoulder every five seconds at that networking event doesn’t seem likely to want to grab a burger or see a Nats game next week, either.  But we all have to eat, and many of us eat out more often than we cook at home.

Enter Grubwithus.  The brainchild of two California entrepreneurs who found themselves without a social circle after moving to Chicago, Grubwithus negotiates deals with local restaurants around town for small group dinners.  Participants, or “Grubbers,” sign up through the Grubwithus website and pre-pay for their meals.  Then they show up and enjoy an evening of good food and (hopefully) good conversation with as many as seven strangers.

Think of it as blind group dating without the romantic overtones.

Grubwithus (@grubwithus) has already taken off in Chicago, San Francisco and New York, and today they announced their inaugural DC dinners.  In preparation for the launch, we sat down with Sen Sugano and Tricia Sabido for a better understanding of what Grubwithus brings to the table.

Details, including the first five DC dinners, after the jump. (more…)


PS7's Gina Chersevani with Alice Waters

If our math is correct, Alice Waters’ Sunday Night Suppers helped to raise more than $100,000 for the DC Central Kitchen and Martha’s Table for the second year in a row.  The 15 all-star dinner parties were limited to 20 guests each, and they featured some of Washington’s best and most established chefs.  But they weren’t the only way to help support these great causes this time around.

In an effort to engage the next generation of savvy and (hopefully) active foodies, Waters and company organized a pre-game called Sunday Night Sips.

Everything about this luxe cocktail reception was planned with a younger audience in mind, from the scaled-back price point to the collection of up-and-coming chefs whose dishes were featured to the high-end cocktails poured by three of DC’s finest craft bartenders.

We were invited to tag along and document the event, and we eagerly accepted.  What awaited us in hosts Greg Nelson and Jose Cunningham’s beautiful home was three floors of food and drink that were designed to impress.  Whether it was Will Artley’s BLT Gnocchi (a favorite we’ve ordered at Evening Star Cafe) or Owen Thompson’s Tequila Milk Punch, each taste packed a flavorful punch.

The evening in images (Who am I kidding? There are plenty of words, too) after the jump. (more…)


On the eve of President Obama’s inauguration last year, top chefs, writers and artists from all over America descended on Washington to put on Art. Food. Hope. They served up a dozen amazing meals, inspired numerous conversations about what the new administration could do to show its commitment to sustainable agriculture, healthy food culture, and solutions to hunger.  Needless to say, the dinners were completely sold out, and they raised more than $100,000 for local charities like Martha’s Table and the DC Central Kitchen.  As luck would have it, we here at Capital Spice were even lucky enough to be at the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market that Sunday morning when Alice Waters and several other participating chefs stopped by to pick up some ingredients.

Ris Lacoste, Barton Seaver and Alice Waters with representatives from FreshFarm Markets, Martha's Table and DC Central Kitchen

They figured it worked so well last time, why not try it again this year?  In the same spirit as last year’s event, Jose Andres, Alice Waters and more than two dozen local and national chefs will be working to put on 15 dinners on Sunday, January 24th.  To make it even more interesting, this year they’ve added a “Sunday Night Sips” cocktail reception to precede the “Sunday Night Suppers.”

With seating at each dinner limited to 20 guests, intimate doesn’t even begin to describe this.  These are basically command performances by most of Washington’s most celebrated chefs, with a handful of imports from as far away as San Francisco thrown in for good measure.  Four courses and conversation, with the goal of continuing all of the positive impact that came out of last year.

Have dinner plans for Sunday, the 24th yet?  Check out the list of participating chefs after the jump and get some more information on how you can get involved. (more…)


Sometimes the best traditions around Thanksgiving aren’t just the food, but what happens around the table once the food has been cleared away.

In my family, the means an insanely competitive game of Spoons among the cousins. Spoons is a card game that is kind of like musical chairs. Start with one deck of cards. Everyone gets four cards.

Put spoons in the middle of the table, using one less spoon that the number of people playing.





Start passing cards one at a time. The first person to get four of a kind grabs the first spoon.











Once the first spoon is claimed, everyone else has their chance to grab a spoon.  Chaos ensues.  Polite families take one and get out of the way. My family? We scatter them to the four winds. Thrown under the table, into other rooms, into the laps of competitors. Its much more fun that way.

The odd person out who does not get a spoon  – because you put down one less than the number of people playing – gets a letter by their name to spell out S-P-O-O-N or J-A-C-K-A-S-S or whatever you want.  But teasing the loser isn’t the fun part. The fun part is watching people completely panic trying to get the last spoon.

We are not above trying to steal them out of someone else’s hand.                                                                                                      










WARNING: This has led to several scars and lost feeling in my pinky for a few days. I got that damn spoon, though.










Photos courtesy of Katie Barnes, my insanely talented cousin. She wisely decides to record, rather than play, Spoons. Her hands are remarkably scar-free.



In journalism, two is a coincidence and three’s a trend.

We mentioned it last week, but it definitely bears repeating: The third monthly DC Food Bloggers’ Happy Hour is taking place tonight.

You joined us at Poste and showed us just how many Washingtonians are writing about their cooking, dining and drinking experiences.

You followed that up with beer and Scotch eggs at CommonWealth last month, keeping the enthusiasm going.

The third time’s the charm.

Come out and spend a few hours with us at the Black Squirrel in Adams Morgan.  They boast impressive lists of beers, wine and absinthe, and they’ve got a couple of beer-based cocktails that are worth a try, as well.  The menu favors pub grub, with plenty of warm and comforting favorites to chase away the chill.

We’ll be holding our happy hour upstairs from 6 to 8 PM.  If you didn’t realize the Black Squirrel had an upstairs, don’t feel bad.  The space is a recent addition.

As always, your hosts for the evening include us, Mary from the Arugula Files, Jenna from Modern Domestic, Amelia from Gradually Greener, Cathy from We Love DC and Orr the Beerspotter.  Lauren from Capital Cooking joined the planning team this time around, and Lisa from Dining in DC has helped to spread the word.

We’ve already got more than 30 responses for this one, so you know it’s going to be a good time.  Check out a list of anticipated attendees after the jump, and let us know in the comments if you’re planning to attend.  We’re hoping to make this our biggest FoBloHaHo yet (that abbreviation could probably use some work…). (more…)


With the temperatures dropping and damp air outpacing autumn’s crispness, we’ve been in the mood for a hearty Baked Mussels 003seafood dish. While some entertaining hosts disagree, I think there is no better reason to try a new dish than friends coming over for dinner. Besides, Itty Bitty Betty and The Bacon Terrorist are always game. As friends with a mutual appreciation for food and cooking, they are a forgiving audience if things don’t go as planned.

Regardless my hand immediately reached for one of our foolproof cookbooks From the Earth to the Table. This wine country cuisine, whole-foods focused cookbook has been the source of some our favorite meals including our favorite spicy tri-color tomato soup and ricotta and herb tart.  The night’s beverage list was weighted heavily on beers, making baked mussels with serrano chiles and fresh mozzarella the perfect choice.

For avid shellfish fans, Mike and I rarely cook them at home instead preferring to leave the shucking and serving to the professionals. I was nervous about giving our friends food poisoning with my amateur shellfish ways. Still, mussels are reputed to be easy to prep and spotting a bad mussel is pretty straightforward  (anything with a closed shell after cooking time is complete). I soldiered on.

results and recipe after the jump! (more…)


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