by Debby Critchley
The RAMMYs (Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington) were awarded June 7 and look who won Employee of the Year, Evan Labb of the Evening Star Café. Evan was selected as the non-managerial front or back of the house employee who serves as a model employee by displaying outstanding service, an excellent work ethic, and a positive image.
Lots more good news in the area. The King St. Farmers Market has reopened. Look for them every Thursday from: 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm starting now through September 24. You’ll find them at King Street Station in the courtyard at 1800 Diagonal Road. Vendors include Panorama Artisanal French Breads and Pastries, Pestos, Bouquets of Loveville (fresh cut flowers and ornamental plants), Thompson Cheese (Amish cave cheeses, yogurts, eggs, jarred foods), Pretentious Gourmet (cookies), Diaz Veggies and Berries (Alma Diaz), Aunt Hattie’s Pralines (local Alexandrian, various homemade praline items), Twin Springs Fruit Farm of Pennsylvania (dozens of varieties of fruit and more veggies). Get 30 minutes of free parking in the garage. Use 1755 Duke Street entrance.
There’s a change in vendors at the Four Mile Run Market. Say hello to Second Rising Bakery. Rebecca bakes delicious breads and cookies that are egg free and made with real butter, honey, and whole grains. They offer an amazing whole grain and seed bread called Waikele. It has a great crunch. Once this new business is up and running, it will help provide women that have been victimized by the sex trade to have a second chance.
Travel and Leisure Magazine has named Sugar Shack Donuts in Richmond, Virginia one of the best donuts shops in America. Hand-rolled, hand-cut donuts are made in small batches each day in every Sugar Shack in Virginia. And locally sourced ingredients are used whenever possible; fresh pureed berries star in the fruit glazes while hand-peeled apples shine in the fritter. At the Alexandria location, Sugar Shack is honoring National Donut Day with aDonuts for Doing Good campaign. The city’s police and fire departments will hand out coupons for a free house donut every time they see someone do a good deed. After you get your free philanthropic donut, try the Port City Porter donut, featuring a glaze made with the local brew from Port City Brewing.
Look for St. Elmo’s Café to start serving beer and wine. I would love to have a glass of wine while listening to the fabulous musicians that perform there. There will also be a change in ownership. Thank you Nora for starting the renaissance that is Del Ray. Blackwall Hitch of Annapolis opened at 5 Cameron Street on June 8. Come in and enjoy their oyster bar, craft beer, views of the Potomac River and live acoustic and jazz performance by local musicians. Tupelo Honey Café has opened in Arlington at 1616 N. Troy near the Courthouse Metro. This NC based restaurant opens their first DC location, bringing fresh, from scratch Southern fare including fried chicken, country-ham wontons, goat-cheese-grits poppers, Southern tacos filled with curried fried chicken or meatloaf, lamb meatballs, and a multi-garnished Bloody Mary. They also offercraft beers, and cocktails. They are open for lunch and dinner, and Saturday and Sunday brunch. Check out the Happy Hour menu and a special Moonrise Brunch with late night breakfast small plates. Ease Yoga & Cafe is now open at 3051 Mt. Vernon Ave. Owner Tara Casagrande says Ease is “a community gathering spot where people of all ages can eat well and stretch every day.” Food choices include healthy smoothies, fresh-pressed juices, coffee, tea, vegetarian fare, artisan sandwiches, and homemade kale chips. Stomping Grounds aqt 2309 Mt. Vernon Ave. is officially open on Mt. Vernon Ave. Expect Swing Coffee and biscuits with a variety of toppings and made into sandwiches. They serve breakfast Tuesday through Sunday from 7 am until 3 pm. Seasonal farm salads are served starting at noon. Everything is made by hand from scratch with local and sustainable meats, dairy, produce and grains whenever possible.
Souvlaki Bar is coming to the spot where Afghan Restaurant was previously located, according to plans filed with the City of Alexandria at the corner of 2700 Jefferson Davis Highway and E. Raymond Avenue. According to planning documents filed with the city by owners Christos Sarantis and Tom Christopoulos, The restaurant will offer “Greek-inspired casual dining, fresh food prepared and cooked to order on premises; beer and wine on premises, with table wait service, delivery and take-out services.” Hiber Ethiopian Restaurant is coming to 410 E. Glebe. “It will be a restaurant that serves the best Ethiopian dishes, made fresh from the best ingredients, and served fresh… All who want to experience authentic Ethiopian cuisine, including pescetarians, vegetarians, vegans, ‘meatetarians’, and people who like eating with their fingers, people who don’t like eating with their fingers, will find a welcoming authentic restaurant in Hibir.”
Mike Isabella Concepts is busy, busy, busy. Look for Pepita to open in mid-summer in Ballston (4000 Wilson Blvd.). The coastal cantina will feature tacos, tortas and Mexican-inspired small plates like shrimp flautas, and cocktails from partner and beverage director Taha Ismail. Let’s hope he includes the chocolate tres leches cake that appeared at the pop up. Yona is a Japanese noodle bar in partnership with chef Jonah Kim. Expect Asian small plates including steamed duck buns, crispy Brussels sprouts with Kewpie mayo and Korean-style fried chicken wings. Both restaurants will share space in the same building as Kapnos Taverna. Speaking of Kapnos Taverna, it serves up Greek cuisine like its sister restaurant downtown. But there is more of an emphasis on traditional cooking and seafood – share a seafood tower with friends. You’ll find classic and coastal-inspired Greek dishes, including favorites from the Greek Islands along with tastes from other regions known for their fine local products. Kapnos Taverna features more traditional takes on the ancient cuisine alongside dishes that are a modern ode to mainland and Northern Greece. The restaurant’s liquid offerings feature a Greek-heavy wine list and Mediterranean-inspired cocktails.
Don’t miss SER (simple, easy, real), a neighborhood restaurant in Ballston, 1110 N Glebe Rd., serving up authentic comfort foods from Spain in a casual and friendly environment. This restaurant features Spanish cuisine including tapas during happy hour, paellas, suckling pig, and a Spanish take on the cheeseburger. It is an authentic Spanish tavern or “food house” with a casual and friendly vibe. Don’t miss forget Peter Chang, the former Chinese Embassy chef of notable Sichuan creations opened his eponymous named storefront in Arlington at 2503 N Harrison St. The menus feature offerings similar to his other Virginia-area chain branches, including Beijing smoked duck, Hunan fish and basil chicken, plus a few special dishes.
The Curious Grape at 2900 S. Quincy has closed in Shirlington but has been replaced with Osteria da Nino. The new restaurant retained the chef, Delian DiPietro who joins owners Nino and Joginder Pino and Jim and Margaret Manchisi. They share an Italian-Sicilian-Sardinian heritage and offer modern takes on dishes from their homelandDiPietro will concentrate on creating authentic, homemade pasta and Italian dishes. Try the Fritto Misto with crispy calamari, salmon, shrimp, mussels and a saffron aoli, the
Tagliatelle with shrimp, calamari, bay scallops in a puttanesca sauce, or the Fregola made with whipped ricotta, fava beans, local mushrooms, preserved mushrooms, and massago. Desserts include gelato, panna cotta, tiramisu, and soufflé cioccolato made with coco nibs, peanut butter sorbet, raspberry jam, and Valhrona chocolate. Watch for Monday Mussles & Moules($12) coming soon.
Coming soon to Del Ray is the Streets Market & Cafe, a DC based one-stop grocery store carries a wide selection of reasonably priced organic, natural and conventional products plans on opening their Del Ray store this August /September. In addition to the fresh organic produce, beer, wine and other groceries, they offer really delicious prepared foods ranging from gourmet sandwiches to sushi. You can see the construction underway at 3108 Mt Vernon Ave, on the ground floor of the recently completed Del Ray Tower apartment complex.
Whole Foods announced they’ll be opening a new, separate chain of stores with lower prices aimed specifically at twenty-somethings who love everything natural and organic. Co-CEO Walter Robb explained that these new stores will have a “modern, streamlined design, innovative technology, and a curated selection.” Robb continued that the new chain will appeal “to anyone looking for high-quality fresh food at great prices.” The only timeline provided was that the new stores would begin opening next year and that more details would be revealed by Labor Day. Whole Foods co-CEO John Mackey was, however, willing to admit that these new stores would be “hip, cool and tech-oriented.” Name? 365 from Whole Foods.
Antonio Carluccio is charming, friendly, and enthusiastic about his first U.S. restaurant, Carluccio, located at 100 King Street in Alexandria. The new restaurant opened June 3 and reflects Carluccio’s mantra, “Minimum fuss, maximum flavor.”. “I am a cook, not a chef,” Carluccio said “I learned to cook because Italian food is meant to be shared; it is meant to be a celebration.” The market offers Italian sauces, olive oil, meats, cheese and pastries, which are made on the premises. The market is open from 6 am to 11:30 pm Monday through Friday, and from 7 am to 11:30 p.m. on Saturday and 7 am to 10 pm on Sunday.
And on a sad note, thank you Eric Nelson for bringing us Artfully Chocolate. We will always remember your Divas. Here’s wishing you the best in whatever path you choose. We will miss you and all your creative art and chocolate.
Taste of Del Ray
I spent an amazing afternoon at the 7th Annual Taste of Del Ray on June 7. Karen Johnson and her team of volunteers provided a winning group of restaurants for our enjoyment. The participating restaurants pulled out all of the stops by presenting inventive and delicious plates. Bon Vivant + Farm Market (2016 Mt Vernon Ave.) featured a gazpacho made with flavorful WVa tomatoes. The owner, Jawad Laouaoda, said that the restaurant features real food made with fresh seasonal ingredients with no added antibiotics, hormones, preservatives, or additives. Rhoda from Caboose Cafe (2419 Mt Vernon Ave.) brought her Ethiopian roots to play in her red lentils wrapped in injera. It had a bit of spice wonderful spiciness. I loved it. Cheesetique (2411 Mt Vernon Ave.) and Jill Erbe brought us a savory cheesecake made with a two cheese crust and filled with a smoked Gouda and vegetable filling. The new chef at Del Ray Pizzeria (2218 Mt Vernon Ave.), Wylie, brought a cool and refreshing watermelon soup with a hint of Serrano peppers. It will be available on their new summer menu. The Happy Tart (2307A Mt Vernon Ave.) brought sweetness to the table with their gluten free strawberry shortcake. It was amazing. Who knew gluten free could taste so good. Taqueria Poblano (2400-B Mt Vernon Ave.) wowed everyone with their Guajillo chili shrimp. Not too spicy but filled with flavor. Swing Coffee (501 E. Monroe) served us a nitro cold brew coffee. It had a stout-like richness and a touch of carbonation. Senzu Juicery brought samples of their delicious fresh cold pressed juices. You had a choice of several juice combinations including ones for cleansing, energy, and calming. Pork Barrel BBQ (2312 Mt Vernon Ave.) featured their smoked turkey breast with house made pickles and slaw. Billl Blackburn never does anything halfway and this sandwich proved it.
One of Del Ray’s newest restaurants, Emma’s Espresso & Wine Bar (106 Hume Ave. ) presented us with a savory black fig stuffed with a lemon goat cheese. And as if that wasn’t good enough, it was then topped with a honey cherry balsamic drizzle. Del Ray Café (205 E. Howell) never ceases to prepare and present delicious food. They served several items including a delicious puff pastry drizzled with chocolate or raspberry sauce (or both) and a wonderful croquet monsieur. You could wash it down with an avocado soup. Evening Star (2000 Mt Vernon Ave.) surprised us with a popcorn soup with a blue crab salad. It was delightful; who knew popcorn could taste so good with blue crab in a soup. Kaizen Tavern (1909 Mt Vernon Ave.) brought samples from their kitchen that represented their menu of sushi and tacos – where east meets west. The pork taco with pico de gallo was everything you want a taco to be. The sushi was so good I had seconds (and thirds). Herman from Los Tios (2615 Mt Vernon Ave.)made sure no one would be hungry by serving up beef fajitas in a flour tortilla. Delicioso! Market2Market (116 E. Del Ray Ave.) brought their Monroe sub, a delicious turkey sub sandwich you can find on their menu. I’m sure I tasted pesto. The Reserve (2218 Mt Vernon Ave.) can be found above DRP. They served Nashville hot chicken. The sauce was not to hot but just enough to give you a kick. It’s served with a waffle on their menu. Did you know that Shakthi South Asian Cuisine (3807 Mt Vernon Ave.) brings the taste of Sri Lanka to Del Ray. They served a plate of several specialties including potato curry, chicken curry, over rice and vegetable balls. They also served my favorite bite, vegetable kotthu roti. They said that was one of the favorite foods of Sri Lanka. The Boys and Girls Club was on hand to provide cold water and sodas.
The guest judge was Northern Virginia Magazine Managing Editor Lynn Norusis. Her choices for best dishes were Evening Star in third place, Cheesetique in second place, and The Reserve took home first place. Each attendee voted for their favorite dish of the day. The People’s Choice awards went to The Reserve for third place, Los Tios won second place, and Pork Barrel BBQ earned the first place vote.