Food News and Gossip


If you thought the winter months meant the DC food truck scene would be heading into hibernation, you were sorely mistaken.  It’s not just the unexpected warm weather that’s keeping Washington’s rolling restaurateurs in the news.  We wanted to let you know about two items of note this week – one of them especially interesting if you’re a government employee and you’re hungry tomorrow.

First, we’ve seen several members of the DC Food Truck Association posting about a toy drive that the association is undertaking to benefit My Sister’s Place.  Participating trucks are accepting donations of new, unwrapped toys every day from now until December 15th.  The toys will be given to children staying at the shelter during the holidays.

My Sister’s Place has been serving victims of domestic violence in the Washington area with emergency shelter for more than 30 years.  They have since expanded their services to include transitional housing assistance, counseling, and a program for immigrants victims of domestic violence, as well.  They have helped more than 1,100 families in need.

Want to know if your lunch destination will be accepting toys on behalf of My Sister’s Place?  Your safest bet is to tweet them and ask – they’ll likely welcome the chance to remind their followers that they’re helping. But chances are they will be participating…the DC Food Truck Association lists more than 20 members on their website, and a quick search for the #DCFTA hashtag on Twitter turned up tweets from TastyKabob, AZNEats, Rolling Ficelle, PORC, the Cheesecake Truck, DC Empanadas and Cajunators asking customers to bring toys.

Second, we’ve got some good news for you if you work in the public sector.  GovLoop, the social network that connects more than 50,000 federal, state and local government employees and provides insight into issues like federal benefits open season, is celebrating their 50,000th member (in just three years).  That means free food for you, if you’re a government employee.

GovLoop has partnered with CapMac and BBQ Bus to provide free lunches for the first 500 public sector employees who show proof of employment tomorrow (Thursday, December 8th).  Your freebies await as follows:

-200 free lunches from CapMac at Federal Triangle, with your choice of classic macaroni and cheese with a drink or goat cheese macaroni and cheese with a drink

-300 free lunches from BBQ Bus at L’Enfant Plaza, featuring your choice of a pulled pork sandwich with chips and a drink or three bean vegetarian chili with a drink

Both trucks will open for service at 11:30 and will be serving until all of the giveaways have been claimed or until 1:30, whichever comes first.  To claim your free lunch, bring a government ID, business card or some other proof of employment.  And don’t forget – this isn’t just limited to federal employees, so state and local workers can take advantage of these deals, too.

Watch Twitter for each truck’s exact location, and definitely plan to be early.  The only thing longer than a food truck line is a food truck line waiting for free food!

 

 

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Brace yourselves.  We just need a minute to totally lose our cool:

WE GOT TO HANG OUT WITH TOP CHEF STEPHANIE IZARD!

Ah, much better.  If you’ve read Capital Spice before now, you know we’re kind of huge Top Chef fans.  And our first big interview was with Chef Spike Mendelsohn as he prepared to open Good Stuff Eatery, so we’re especially partial to Season 4 (Top Chef Chicago).  So when we were given the chance to attend a dinner prepared by Spike and Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard, we jumped at it.

The dinner, which took place on Wednesday, November 16th, was part of Chef Izard’s tour promoting her new cookbook, Girl in the Kitchen.  Rather than subject herself and her fans to a series of low-key bookstore signing events, Izard has partnered with local chefs in cities across the country to put on special dinner events benefiting Share Our Strength.  The “Goat Tour” (the name is a nod to her year-old, critically acclaimed Girl and the Goat restaurant) has the look and feel of a concert tour, right down to the t-shirts worn by Izard and her team featuring a map and a list of dates on the back.  With everyone from Jimmy Fallon to the Wall Street Journal calling chefs “rock stars,” it’s only fitting.

A four-course pizza feast with a pair of fun chefs after the jump. (more…)

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In September of 2009, we reached out to a couple of guys named Heath and Brett whose locally-made barbecue sauce had earned them a chance to appear on ABC’s Shark Tank.  Since then, we’ve worked with the Pork Barrel BBQ team to participate in two DC Meat Weeks, each time offering attendees a taste of what they could expect at the “soon-to-open” restaurant in Del Ray.  And they’ve been more than a little busy themselves, winning the Perdue National Chicken Championship and taking the title of Grand Champion at the Safeway National Capital Barbecue Battle in June.

But the wait ends tonight.

Pork Barrel BBQ officially opens its doors at 5 PM, and when we took a look around this weekend the restaurant gave every indication of being worth the wait.  As Heath Hall put it, “This is barbecue.  We wanted to make sure everything was just right.  You can’t rush good barbecue, no matter how much you might want to.”  With five smoked meats and more than half a dozen sides on offer, that meant a lot of testing and retesting of recipes while the restaurant space was finished to everyone’s satisfaction.

All the dirty details on the smoker, the sides and the space after the jump. (more…)

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Just a quick note while we’re confirming and contacting the winners of our BONMi Giveaway…

In case you haven’t heard, today is the fifth and final Truckeroo food truck gathering in the Bullpen down near Nationals Park.  They’re calling it Truckerboo in honor of Halloween, and you’re invited to Trick or Eat from now until midnight.  There will be live music, more than twenty-five food trucks, costume contests with cash prizes and unseasonably cold weather.

Participating trucks this time around include:

AZN Eats
Surfside Truck
BBQ Bus
Big Cheese
Cajunators
CapMac
Curbside Cupcakes
Dangerous Pies DC
DC Empanadas
DC Slices
Eat Wonky
El Floridano
Fojol Bros
Halal Gyro
Hula Girl
Orange Cow
PORC
Pleasant Pops
Red Hook Lobster
Sang on Wheels
Sauca
SweetBites
TaKorean
Tasty Kabob
Yellow Vendor
Basil Thyme

Check out the website for a great aggregated page with all the participants’ Twitter feeds and additional information about the event.

Ever wonder how Truckeroo came about?  It’s a joint venture of Georgetown Events and the DC Food Truck Association.  We’ll be bringing you more information about both organizations – and what the future holds for Truckeroo – in a regular feature that we’ll be rolling out soon.  Keep an eye out for “Food Truck Fridays” here at Capital Spice!

 

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Workday lunch.  Sandwiches and salads.  Ho-hum, right?

For our friends near Farragut Square, there’s a new option that’s likely to make you rethink that assessment.  And for everyone else…they’re Metro accessible!

Welcome BONMi, a quick-service shop offering up sandwiches, salads, and summer rolls with flavors inspired by those of traditional Vietnamese banh mi.  A trip to Vietnam convinced Lynne Jacoby and her partners that the satisfying street food could be the next big thing, and then they took it one step further.  They kept the flavors the same but upgraded their offerings to incorporate modern prep techniques and presentations to appeal to health-conscious diners.

We had a chance to take a look around BONMi late last week as they were putting the finishing touches on the interior, and then we were back there at lunchtime today to taste one of the first sandwiches to come off their cafeteria-style prep line.  What we saw (and tasted) has us hungry for more.  And if it does the same to you, we’ve got TEN FREE LUNCHES to give away to Capital Spice readers.

Join us after the jump a look at the interior and the food as well as details on how you can win one of the ten free lunches. (more…)

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First, the good news.  Congratulations to Jessica, who won $10 worth of veggie treats at this weekend’s DC VegFest!  We selected her comment using Random.org’s integer generator to select a number between 1 and 43 (the number of comments we received by the deadline).  We’re hoping Jessica will come back after the festival and let us know what she spent the VegFest bucks on!

Now on to the bad news.  On Wednesday, Bravo announced the lineup for Season Nine of Top Chef.  Set throughout the Lone Star State, it is fittingly called “Top Chef: Texas.”  Normally, this would be the time when we here at Capital Spice would get all excited about rooting for another local chef.  After all, we’ve had a string of talented representatives stretching all the way back to Top Chef: Chicago in Season 4:

Chicago: Spike Mendelsohn
New York: Carla Hall
Vegas: Mike Isabella, Bryan Voltaggio
DC: Tamesha Warren
All-Stars: Spike, Carla and Mike, with Isabella going all the way to the finale

We’ve also had contestants in both seasons of Top Chef: Just Desserts – Heather Chittum in Season 1 and Matthew Peterson, who is still competing in Season 2.

All this to say, Washington has certainly been well-represented within the franchise over the past few years.  Until now.  And it’s worse than you think.

This time, Bravo’s press release didn’t just announce the finalists who will be competing for the title of Top Chef.  Instead, they announced a total of 29 “hopefuls” who will be pared down to 16 for the statewide competition.  So we didn’t just miss out on having at least one local representative among the 16 cheftestants…we missed out on even having one among the 29 aspiring cheftestants!

To be fair, Washington isn’t the only culinary destination without a hometown chef to root for: Philadelphia, Las Vegas and San Francisco were similarly shut out.  In all, 18 of the 29 chefs who will appear in the season premiere on November 2nd hail from four cities: Chicago (6, including 2 from the SAME RESTAURANT), New York/Brooklyn (4), Los Angeles (4)  and Seattle (4).

Because we’ve worked with the folks at Bravo to interview so many of the previous competitors, we reached out to ask about lack of geographic diversity among this season’s cast.  A spokesperson for Bravo told us location “simply isn’t a factor” when determining who the cheftestants will be.  “We don’t pick our chefs based on where they cook,” they went on to say.  “These twenty-nine chefs are the best of everyone we saw.”

That made us wonder about where Bravo and Magical Elves (Top Chef’s production company) went looking for chefs for Season 9.  We found this seemingly official image from Harlem World back in March announcing casting dates across the country.  Open calls were held in Chicago, New York, LA and Seattle…but they were also held in Philadelphia and Las Vegas.

So what do you think?  Were DC chefs passed over for this season of Top Chef?  Or did our top talent take a pass on this season’s auditions?

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Here at Capital Spice, we’re big fans of the concept of “eat and let eat.”  The fact that we helped bring Meat Week to Washington doesn’t mean we’re anti-vegetable.  So we were excited to hear about DC VegFest, a free opportunity for everyone from themost stringent vegan to the most confirmed carnivore to experience some of Washington’s best vegetarian options in one place.

DC VegFest will take place this Saturday, September 24th, from 11AM to 6 PM at George Washington University’s University Yard.  They’re gathering more than 70 exhibitors, including food vendors, retail outlets and non-profits to show just how good veg-friendly living can be.  They’ve also put together an impressive line-up of special guest speakers, including vegan chef and author Isa Chandra Moskowitz, NBC4 anchor Wendy Rieger, and Humane Society President and CEO Wayne Pacelle.

We were especially impressed by the list of food vendors who will be selling their vegetarian and vegan-friendly products at the festival.  They include obvious local favorites like Bread & Brew, Amsterdam Falafel Shop and Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats, but there are fifteen more ways to satisfy your hunger.  Check out Cafe Green, Vegan Treats Bakery, Burrito Bandits, Saveur India, Bakeshop, Nourish Market, Mojo Juice, Curry Mantra, Dama Ethiopian and Pastry, Sweet & Natural, Everlasting Life Cafe or Sunflower.  Or check out two of the hottest (and most fun) trucks on the mobile food scene – the Fojol Brothers will be on site with their offerings from Benethiopia and Merlindia!

And that’s where things get good for you.  To help spread the word about DC VegFest, the organizers – including the Vegetarian Society of DC and Compassion Over Killing – arranged a media preview event last week.  We couldn’t make it to the event, but they were good enough to send us a package with information and a number of giveaways that included $10 in DC VegFest bucks that are valid at any of the food stands listed above.

We want to give these VegFest bucks to YOU.  You’ll be able to sample $10 worth of veg-friendly fare for free – couple that with the free admission and you’re looking at a great way to spend a Saturday that works with any budget.  All we ask is that you take a moment to answer one simple question:

What’s the best vegan or vegetarian dish you’ve ever eaten?

Share your tastiest meatless meal in the comments section and you’ll be entered to win $10 in VegFest bucks.  You can enter between now and 11:59 PM on Wednesday, September 21st.  We’ll pick a winner at random and contact you Thursday to arrange pickup.

With so many delicious dining options (we can vouch for at least four of them), it’s going to be difficult to choose just what to use the VegFest bucks on.  We hope you’ll plan to stop by DC VegFest this Saturday, whatever your personal diet.  It’s a great introduction to the robust DC vegetarian scene and a welcome reminder that meatless eating can be delicious no matter how often you do it.

 

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If you watched Bravo’s debut season of Top Chef: Just Desserts last year, you learned that pastry chefs can be just as competitive (and just as cutting) as their meat-and-potatoes counterparts.  To some, the pressure on pastry chefs is even greater, as most of their creations require perfect recall of ingredient ratios, temperatures and cooking times.  If a souffle doesn’t come together, it’s a lot harder for them to pivot and turn it into another dessert on the fly.

With all that in mind, Bravo is offering up a tasty treat: a second helping of Just Desserts!  Season Two debuts tomorrow night, and the competition has expanded from twelve chefs to fourteen.  We were excited to see that DC would be represented once again, this time by CityZen’s Matthew Petersen.

Petersen has been at CityZen for a little over a year now, and he’s been earning praise for his blending of classic techniques with creative twists.  We caught up with him over email as he was getting ready for his next big thing: a three-course “Simply Dessert” tasting menu ($25) that will change weekly on Thursdays – conveniently the day after each episode of Top Chef: Just Desserts airs.

Questions and answers are reprinted in their entirety without any editing or revision:

Capital Spice: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Chef.  Let’s start with the basics: What inspired you to compete?
Matthew Petersen: I decided that it would be a great opportunity so I decided to apply.

CS: You studied baking and pastry in culinary school – what drew you to them?
MP: I always knew, from about the age of 15, that I wanted to work in a kitchen making pastry of some sort.  I didn’t know then that I would end up in mostly fine dining restaurants working with some great chefs.  At an early age I was surrounded by great, simple, homemade pastry.

CS: CityZen is well-known for the creativity of its menu, from appetizers to desserts.  What is it like working in that kind of environment?
MP: I love working with [Chef] Eric [Ziebold] at CityZen.  The constant rotation of the menu pushes my creativity more than any other restaurant I have been at.  I would say that I thrive in this kind of environment where you are pushed to your limits in every capacity.  It is a grueling effort sometimes but the rewards are great.

What it’s like to follow a Beard Award-nominated chef and more after the jump. (more…)

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View DC Summer Restaurant Week 2011 – Participating Restaurants in a larger map

It’s that time again – the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington and Destination DC are about to make your afternoon.

About five minutes ago, the site for Washington’s 2011 Summer Restaurant Week went live with more than 200 participating restaurants around the Metro area. This year’s summer foodfest will run from Monday, August 15th, through Sunday, August 21st.  The OpenTable reservations for the most popular tables are probably disappearing while you read this!

With destinations from Trummer’s on Main in Clifton to Smith Commons on H Street, NE, you’ll find plenty of options in your neighborhood offering lunch deals for $20.11 and three-course dinners for $35.11.  But I know what you’re thinking: “This list is alphabetical.  How can I narrow down the choices to just the ones closest to where I live and work?”

That’s where we come in.

You can use the map above to zero in on the neighborhoods that matter most to you – just click on the link below the image to go to the Google map we created.  We’re going to be adding in the OpenTable links this afternoon so you can head there directly from here, but for now you’ll want to check the map and then go to OpenTable to make your reservations.

We’ve offered some advice on Restaurant Week from time to time.  If you haven’t seen it (or if you want a refresher), check out our recommendations after the jump.

 

(more…)

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For most of us, July 4th is a day to sit back and relax as we celebrate our nation’s independence.  For Jose Andres, not so much.  The outgoing head of the ThinkFoodGroup has a busy Monday lined up, what with the opening of his new America Eats Tavern and his work with the National Archives’ “What’s Cooking Uncle Sam?” exhibit. We even got an inside tip on what he’ll be doing that morning (which we’ll share after the jump).

America Eats, conceived as a complement to the exhibit, is a pop-up restaurant that has possessed the body of Cafe Atlantico on 8th Street, NW in Penn Quarter.  The restaurant features seating on three levels and a significant facelift that focuses on iconic American images and artwork.  And although the menu is not yet complete, Andres has promised a bill of fare that will serve as a history lesson on a plate, featuring historically significant American recipes along with background information on where, when and why.

We had a chance to drop by the restaurant yesterday and take a look around.  They’ll be working around the clock between now and lunchtime Monday to make sure it’s all ready to go, but what we saw was already well on its way to completion, and there are some decorations that will make you stop and smile no matter where you enter the story of America’s dietary history.

Details and photos – including an impromptu chat with Archivist of the United States David Ferriero – after the jump. (more…)

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