Jose Andres’ Evocative America Eats Tavern
Jose Andres’ newly minted America Eats Tavern in the Ritz-Carlton Tyson’s Corner evokes the casual elegance of Long Island’s tony Hamptons (Sag Harbor springs to mind), transforming the hotel restaurant space. Formerly occupied by French chef, Michel Richard, the charming spot is a breath of fresh air embraced in a rustic chic décor.
Andres, we’ll call him the “The Reigning Ambassador of Spanish Cuisine”, shows off his newly acquired American citizenship by using some of the country’s earliest recipes and traditional foodstuffs to celebrate our national culinary heritage. Gourmet magazine where are you when we need you?
Plumbing the pages of 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st Century American cookbooks to cull recipes from George Washington Carver for Peanut Soup from 1914 to Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife receipt for Gazpacho from the 1851 Colonial supper table, Andres has unearthed some intriguing renditions of beloved American dishes. As expected he has tweaked them a bit by sidestepping the nitty-gritty of using squirrel, deer or bear, replacing those dicey ingredients with domestically farm-raised proteins from a variety of American purveyors.
The handcrafted cocktails are superb, and a must have. Ice cubes are made in three sizes – crushed round and square – and tailored to each drink. Be sure to order the Peach Julep, a beautifully balanced, sweet to tart, bourbon to mixer, served in a copper julep cup. It’s a veritable dose of Southern sunshine.
The menu is a primer on American gastronomic diversity – from sea to shining sea. You’ll find a lavish seafood bar with oysters, Maine lobsters and Alaskan king crab; breadbaskets brimming with drop biscuits and coupled with blackberry butter; skillet cornbread and hushpuppies served with trout roe; and the pride of San Francisco – a loaf of sourdough bread. Casting an ever-widening net there are hams from Edwards & Sons in Virginia, Benton’s in Tennessee, La Quercia of Iowa and Olli Salumeria’s Becker Lane Ham. The latter gets a biscuit, red-eye mayo, Amish pickled eggs, and crunchy sour pickles from my favorite local fermenters, No. 1 Sons. Even lowly catsup has not been neglected with an assortment of bumped up fruit catsups from local producer ‘Chups that includes Blueberry, Peach and Plum.
Recipe credit from around the nation is given to the historic dishes. Several dishes, like the Steak Tartare American, that became popular in 1950’s America, describe their history, or in this case, mythology. For instance, you may not have known that an early pudding-style rendition of mac n’ cheese was created by a French émigré to America who owned a pasta factory in Philadelphia in the early 1800’s. Here Andres dresses up the creamy vermicelli-based recipe, offering a sumptuous add-on of King crab.
The famed Waldorf Salad of Chef Oscar Tschirky, the Harvard Beet Salad from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook of 1906 and other notables have been credited with their originator. Even dear Irma Rombauer, author of the great American classic, The Joy of Cooking, is celebrated for her refreshing Shrimp and Grapefruit Cocktail.
There is so much to love here, but be sure to save room for the luxurious Triple Chocolate Cake from Martha Washington’s own recipe. Divine to the max.
Pastry Chef, Rick Billings, and Chef de Cuisine, Nate Waugaman, are turning out breakfast (a first for Andres), lunch, dinner and room service should you be so lucky to be putting on the Ritz.
Mark Your Calendars Celebrating National Rum Day at Cuba Libre
Award-winning chef and business partner, Guillermo Pernot, will host two interactive cooking classes on Tuesday, August 5th and Wednesday, August 6t at 6:30 PM. Pernot is an expert on ceviche, winning a second James Beard Award for his book ¡Ceviche! – Seafood, Salads and Cocktails with a Latino Twist.
Guests will learn how to make different kinds of ceviche, and how to pair it with rums from the restaurant’s over 90 premium and flavored varieties from Guyana, Haiti, Nicaragua and Tortola. Classes are priced at $59.00 per person, and are limited to 30 guests.
On August 15th and August 16th, rums are featured at half price during happy hour. Rums are priced between $8 and $34 a glass.
DC’s Biannual Restaurant Week Kicks Off
And don’t forget the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington hosting of Summer Restaurant Week from August 11th through the 17th, when participating restaurants offer three-course lunches for $20.14 and three-course dinners for $35.14. It’s the perfect opportunity to sample some of Washington, D.C.’s best restaurants at an affordable price. For more info visit http://www.ramw.org/restaurantweek.
Mount Vernon’s Colonial High Jinks
At George Washington’s Mount Vernon a Colonial Market & Fair featuring artisans in colonial attire and a dozen entertainers on two stages re-creating the amusements loved by early Americans.
General Washington will preside over a host of amusements including Mr. Bayly, Conjuring and Entertainments; Signora Bella, Equilibrist; Professor Thompson S. Gunn, Mystic Arts of Asia, the Far East, & India; and a demonstration of an 18th century chocolate-making process using an authentic colonial recipe. Sports-minded guests can batter up to an 18th Century cricket game or shop from a collection of works by over forty juried artisans from across the nation who will be on hand to demonstrate their trade and sell their wares.
For a fantastic view of the estate and its river locale, Potomac River sightseeing cruises will be free on a limited basis. Listen to Martha’s advice and get there early.
The Fair takes place Saturday and Sunday September 20th and 21st from 9 am till 5 pm. For more info visit www.MountVernon.org.
National Gallery of Art’s Garden Café Lightens Up for Summer
The National Gallery of Art’s Garden Café has a new summer menu. Created by Chef Michel Richard of Central Michel Richard and Villard Michel Richard and executed by Chef David Rogers to dovetail with the current Degas/Cassatt exhibit recently profiled here, the menu has now has lighter options including a seasonally inspired frisee salad with hard-boiled eggs, Gruyère cheese, and cherry tomatoes; ravioles de fromage au basilic (cheese ravioli in basil sauce), along with the French classic, bœuf à la bourguignon.
Penn Commons Goes Big and Bold
Chef/Owner Jeff Tunks and partners, Gus Demillo and David Wizenberg have conspired to bring you their newest outpost, Penn Commons. Armed with an enormous bar and bold tavern style cuisine helmed by Executive Chef Alfredo Solis – all the better to accommodate the crowds after the action at the nearby Verizon center or at the many theatres in the neighborhood – the new spot features delish cocktails (thirteen of which are named for the original thirteen colonies) and dozens of beers on tap, at least one from each of the United States. They’re calling it “American sensibility joined with American seasonality”.
Having sampled some of the dishes last week, they are creative, hearty and delicious and I can say that the crab cakes are already the BEST in town!
Good To Know: If you get there after the show or game, they have a 10pm “Dinner Farm Bell” menu for the bar and lounge area that is casual American food served family style and goes for the ridiculously affordable price of $12.00. Actors and athletes take note!!!
Vapiano’s Terrific Meal Deal for Movie Lovers
A made-to-order dinner at Vapiano’s plus a ticket to see any movie playing at these neighboring theaters in Bethesda, MD, Reston Town Center, Dulles Town Center, and Ballston, Virginia. The restaurants feature a wide-ranging menu of Italian favorites from antipasti and salads, to pizza and pasta and desserts, like tiramisu and panna cotta. Each guest purchasing the package gets a movie ticket, a fountain soda drink and one of Vapiano’s entrée selections (excluding extra meats and toppings) for $20.00 plus tax. To participate in “Dinner & A Movie”, ask at the host stand when you arrive at the restaurant.
All photo credit to Jordan Wright.