Monday, September 3, 2007

Happy Labor Day!

Well ............. this is the official last day of summer, pools, and the distant sound of children's voices laughing in the evening air. Soon we will be fully engrossed in Halloween costumes, Thanksgiving Pageants and, of course, a visit from "THE BIG ONE"! What a difference a few weeks makes!

The girls slept in this morning (well, Ms. Bean did, Baby-Bee was up at 0700) and Tom is making breakfast before our last trip to the pool. I am anxious to go downstairs and join them.

I guess that since it it Labor Day, we should take a few seconds to thank those in the service industry who make our lives easier and more enjoyable. This includes those in our local food industry who contribute to making living in Old Town so fabulous! My good friend Don forward this article from Sundays New York Times which highlights just a few of our culinary treasures. Recommend a at least 2 local reservations between now and new years in our fine city, and, enjoy!

A Town Takes Its Place at the Culinary Table
ALEXANDRIA, VA., is only 10 minutes by car from downtown
Washington, but the two restaurant scenes once felt decades apart. On one side of the Potomac River, you had nouvelle American bistros and fancy steakhouses packed with Washington insiders and their hefty expense accounts. On the other, there were Applebee's and stodgy French dining rooms seemingly preserved in amber.
But the past is catching up. In recent years, young chefs and ambitious restaurateurs from Washington have crossed the Potomac and planted their knives in the Old Town section, where the Federal-style row houses date to when George Washington rode up from nearby Mount Vernon to talk of cutting ties with
Britain. Drawn by the area's new professional class, lower rents and a blank culinary canvas, fashionable new spots are serving dishes like oysters with beer jellies and sourdough flan with fresh sardines — offerings that were unthinkable not long ago.
Among the first to dip his culinary toes across the Potomac was Cathal Armstrong. The former chef at
Bistro Bis, a Capitol Hill favorite among the powerbroker set, he left in 2004 to open Restaurant Eve (110 South Pitt Street, 703-706-0450,, a casually elegant, sunlit bistro on a red-brick paved street in the heart of Old Town. “People said we were crazy,” Mr. Amstrong said, in his light Irish brogue. “The sentiment was ‘we're not going to cross the moat.' ”
The foodies, it turned out, were already there. Former rail yards were being developed for town houses and attracting people who knew the difference between gnocchi and gnudi. On any given night, Eve's dining rooms are packed with young commuter couples and members of the local horse-country set, who tuck into French-style dishes like pork belly confit with fava beans and oregano ($28), and stuffed rabbit with chanterelles and
garden peas ($31).
As word spread, Mr. Armstrong responded by opening more restaurants: Eamonn's A Dublin Chipper (728 King Street, 703-299-8384;, a fish-and-chips place with a popular cocktail bar, PX; and the Majestic (911 King Street, 703-837-9117;, a 1932 diner that now serves comfort dishes like fried green tomatoes — locally grown, of course — and seafood risotto with squid, shrimp, mussels and salmon ($14.50).
Other chefs soon followed and turned King Street, the main street in Old Town, into a gas-lamp restaurant row. Some were drawn to Alexandria's more intimate dining rooms, where fewer seats and a bigger kitchen are the norm.
Anthony Chittum left Notti Bianche, a bustling Italian restaurant in the Foggy Bottom district of Washington, to take the helm at
Vermilion (1120 King Street, 703-684-9669; In an old town house with exposed brick walls and flickering gas lamps that mimic those on the sidewalks, Vermilion has a relaxed, unpretentious vibe. The menu features new American cuisine like corn chowder with jalapeños and fried Nomini Creek oysters ($9) and sautéed diver scallops with pesto and pickled red onions ($16).
The small-town pace also allows chefs to spread their creative wings. “I could do exactly what I want,” said Morou Ouattara, an “Iron Chef” contestant who ran the kitchen at Signatures, a lavish restaurant in the Penn Quarter section of Washington that was owned by the lobbyist
Jack Abramoff.
After Signatures closed, instead of working for another Washington restaurateur, Mr. Ouattara opened his own establishment in Old Town.
Farrah Olivia (600 Franklin Street, 703-778-2233; is decorated in chocolate browns and giraffe-like patterns that recall the owner's Ivory Coast upbringing. It serves American cuisine with French, African and Japanese touches and molecular gastronomy techniques. Dishes include escolar (a mackerel-like fish) that is pan-seared then shocked in an ice-cold marinade and served with pickled watermelon rind ($12). Anise-flavored gnudi (poached ravioli stuffing without the pasta) is topped with a Parmesan foam ($18).
Among the newest arrivals is Frank Morales, the former chef at
Zola, the power restaurant in Penn Quarter where he garnered rave reviews. Attracted by Old Town's up-and-coming restaurant scene, Mr. Morales jumped ship early this year and joined Rustico (827 Slaters Lane, 703-224-5051;, an upscale pub that serves modern American cuisine and 310 varieties of beer and ale.
In addition to novelty creations like hop brittle and beer salt, Mr. Morales offers “trios” that include three dishes with a flight of beer, priced separately. The $17 duck trio, for example, matches a foie gras spring roll with a Belgian lambic beer,
St. Louis Framboise, and a moist duck confit with Gouden Carolus Grand Cru, a Belgian ale brewed to commemorate the birthday of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (Feb. 24).
Hotels have joined in Alexandria's culinary ascent. Kimpton Hotels, for example, is turning a former Holiday Inn on King Street into Hotel Monaco. Set to open this fall, the hotel's restaurant, Jackson 20, will be run by the
Houston chef Jeff Armstrong, known for his modern Southern cuisine.
Other high-end restaurants are on their way. This month, Jamie Leeds, who owns the ever-crowded Hank's Oyster Bar in Washington, will bring her popular lobster rolls and raw seafood bar to Old Town (1026 King Street, Cathal Armstrong is looking to open a bakery and charcuterie.
And Mr. Ouattara, who named his first restaurant after his daughter, has another daughter, Kora. “She's only 16 months old, but I have to do something,” he said. “I have to open another restaurant for her.”

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