Your Guide to Groupon

groupon

To Groupon or not Groupon, that is the question many restaurateurs are asking themselves these days. Since the online coupon company offered its first daily deal in November 2008, it has become a bona fide phenomenon. Now operating in over 400 markets in 23 countries, the company boasts over 115 million subscribers worldwide. As of the end of the first quarter of this year, Groupon had 56,781 merchants as customers, who sold 28.1 million Groupons in just that first quarter.

Restaurant Groupons are usually the most popular offers in any given market, so these stats seem to indicate that almost everyone is doing one. But before you sign on the dotted line, you need to know exactly what the service can offer, how to maximize its potential and be aware of the possible downsides.

Finish reading this article on the Restaurant Management website now.

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Summer Steals: Dining Deals Set to Expire

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While stores are busy pushing notebooks and Halloween candy, local restaurants haven’t forgotten that August is still summer. Some of the District’s coolest eateries have ongoing seasonal specials: chilling cocktails, summery salads and decadent desserts. But you’d better act quickly, because these deals — like that bag of trick-or-treat candy you buy in September — will be gone too soon.

1789
1226 36th St. NW; 202-965-1789, 1789restaurant.com. (Foggy Bottom)
Georgetown isn’t renowned as a bargain destination, but 1789 might change that reputation with its summer dinner deal. For $40, guests get an ever-changing three-course menu, which might include entrees such as black grouper with smoked Manila clams and desserts such as cherry pie, above. Fine Print: Available Sundays through Thursdays. Download a coupon from 1789′s website or just mention the deal to your server. Expires Sept. 15.

Find out all the summer steals by reading the full story on the Express website now.

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Drink Local: A trip through carbonation country

regionalsodas

It might twist your cap to learn that the mid-Atlantic region, like others around the country, has a rich history with soft drinks. Mountain Dew was first marketed in Marion, Va., while old-time favorite Frostie root beer was born in Catonsville, Md.

These days, there are still a number of sodas being produced within a reasonable drive of the District, so I decided to round up the best ones to find out how they measured up to the national brands.

This proved to be harder than anticipated. After visiting Whole Foods in Silver Spring, Safeway in Petworth, Harris Teeter in Adams Morgan, Magruder’s in Chevy Chase, Shoppers in Takoma Park, 7-Eleven in Manor Park and both Rodman’s and World Market in Friendship Heights, I had just five bottles to show for my efforts: Old Dominion root beer, Harris Teeter root beer, Pennsylvania Dutch birch beer, Rock Creek Cherry Smash and Boylan’s black cherry.

Read my full reviews of all the sodas over on the Washington Post‘s All We Can Eat blog.

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Pure and Simple: Honest Abe Inspires Fresh Cuisine at Lincoln

Lincoln restaurant photo by Nevin MartellAbraham Lincoln earned a lot of nicknames in his day: the Great Emancipator, Honest Abe, the Rail-Splitter. Now he has a new one: Restaurant Muse. The iconic commander in chief has inspired Lincoln, a downtown eatery on a mission to unite diners from both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line and beyond.

Vision
“Lincoln represents freedom and people working together,” says proprietor Alan Popovsky. “And his era evokes the simplicity of food itself.” Accordingly, the restaurant emphasizes using locally sourced seasonal ingredients. Since the restaurant’s opening in mid-April, the menu has already changed twice to highlight the freshest available produce, which right now includes English peas, sweet corn and plum tomatoes.

Eats
The lunch menu focuses on traditionally sized entrees, such as broiled golden mac ‘n’ cheese sassed up with smoked ham ($12) and the juicy Lincoln burger served on a slightly sweet brioche bun and topped with creamy goat cheese, a homemade tomato jam and a speckling of watercress shoots ($14). At dinnertime, the menu switches to small plates, with more than 30 selections. Enjoy a French twist on a seaside sensation with the lobster beignets ($12), or get a kick out of the coffee-rubbed duck breast accompanied by a plum, walnut and farro grain salad ($14). “People don’t have the attention now to sit down and eat one platter of food [for dinner]; they want to try different things,” Popovsky says of the restaurant’s menu format. “But you don’t want to share plates with business associates at a lunch meeting.”

Finish reading this article on the Express website now.

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Let’s Make A Dill: It’s Prime Pickling Time

Westend Bistro's Amy Troutmiller strikes a provocative pickle pose.

Westend Bistro's Amy Troutmiller strikes a provocative pickle pose.

Right now, backyard beds and farmers market stalls are overflowing with ultra-fresh produce. But what do you do when you can’t gobble down a cascade of cukes or surplus of sweet peppers? Break out the brine and start pickling. This way, nothing goes to waste, and you can enjoy Mother Nature’s bounty for months to come.

Amy Troutmiller — general manager of Westend Bistro (1190 22 St. NW; 202-974-4900) and overseer of the restaurant’s beverage program — loves making and eating pickles. “I would rather sit down with a jar of pickles than a bag of potato chips,” she says. “Then I’ll eat the whole jar.”

Four years ago, she was looking for a new hobby and decided to try pickling. After getting some advice from her grandmother, a lifelong canner, Troutmiller prepared 13 different brines and preserved everything from cukes to cauliflower to Brussels sprouts. Now she pickles a colorful array of fruits and veggies for the restaurant’s cocktails, including tarragon pickled blueberries that float in the lavender soda Rickey.

Luckily, it’s not hard to do this yourself.

Find out how by reading the rest of this article on the Express website now.

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Salad Course Gets Dressed Up: Grab Some Greens From Rabbit’s Garden

20110809-rabbit-450Salads are so hot right now. So why are they always served so cold? At Rabbit, a new Arlington eatery, greens get cozy with straight-off-the-grill meats and veggies, which sets its meals apart from the typical salad bar creation in a plastic container.

Owner Aaron Gordon doesn’t consider the restaurant in the same category as Sweetgreen or Chop’t, because everything is cooked to order — and because the man behind the mixes is Katsuya Fukushima, an “Iron Chef America” champion who worked for Minibar, D.C.’s top kitchen for culinary creativity. But while the menu features some unusual offerings (such as grilled peaches and sliced prosciutto over arugula), don’t expect any molecular gastronomy. “There are no foams on the salad,” Gordon says. “No foie gras cotton candy.”

There’s also no such thing as a customized salad — you must choose from Fukushima’s creations ($10.50).

Finish reading this article on the Express website now.

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Your Just Desserts: The Sweet Lobby Brings Parisian Patisseries To Eastern Market

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Just blocks from the Capitol, a new kind of lobbying is taking place. The Sweet Lobby wants to persuade patrons to put aside partisan differences and simply enjoy a little dessert. After all, even politicians have a hard time arguing when their mouths are full. Not that they could stop themselves from noshing on these boutique baked goods long enough to offer a sound bite longer than “Mmm.”

Vision: Owner Winnette McIntosh Ambrose and her younger brother, store manager Timothy McIntosh, grew up in Trinidad before attending MIT 10 years apart to earn mechanical engineering degrees. Now they specialize in the science of sweets inspired by Parisian patisseries.

Eats: The stars of this tiny treat shop are the French macarons, which are offered in 10 rotating flavors ($1.75 each). Standouts include the sweet-meets-savory hazelnut praline salted caramel, the aromatic chocolate-cassis and the zingy lemon. The creamy sweet coconut was inspired by the siblings’ childhood. “Our mom made ice cream from scratch with coconuts grown in our backyard,” McIntosh Ambrose says. “That was the taste we were going for, but packed into a macaron.” The Barracks Row bakery also offers a dozen types of cupcakes daily ($2.75 each), which might include the Elvis-friendly banana-peanut, the intense midnight dark chocolate or the classic red velvet. If none of the available flavors hit your sweet spot, you can design the palm-sized pastry of your dreams and order a batch for consumption in the not-so-distant future ($2.75 each with a two-dozen minimum and a $10 design fee).

Finish reading this post on the Express website now.

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Garden Varieties: On-Site Gardens Offer Fresh Produce For Local Restaurants

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Summer is the most popular vacation season of the year, so it makes sense that area chefs would want to get away, too. But several of them aren’t headed far from their kitchens. They’re just out back in on-site gardens, an increasingly popular feature of restaurants that allows them to showcase homegrown — and extra-nutritious — produce. “We pluck tomatoes off the vine and put them right in salads,” says Harth’s executive chef, Tom Elder. “It doesn’t get any fresher than that.”

Poste
Executive chef Robert Weland kept things simple when he planted his first garden on Poste’s patio in the spring of 2005, cultivating only a few herbs. Now the space is bursting with fig and almond trees, and beds of lettuce. There are also 16 kinds of heirloom tomatoes, including rare varieties such as the pale yellow Ananas and sweet, earthy Chocolate Stripes, which are used in the chef’s tasting menu, 20 Bites. “There’s something really special about eating a tomato in the middle of the garden where it was grown,” says Weland, who offered up one of his recipes.

» 555 8th St. NW; 202-783-6060, Postebrasserie.com

20110801-gardenvarietes-250.jpgThe Fairmont
This West End spot makes sure visitors sip or nibble on something homegrown. Blossoms from the cherry trees sass up the vinaigrette dressing; peppermint adds mojo to mojitos; and the white-, green- and purple-flecked tri-color sage brings a sweetly savory note to the signature duck breast entree’s blackberry sauce.

» 2401 M St. NW; 202-429-2400, Fairmont.com/washington

Finish reading this article and get Weland’s gazpacho recipe on the Express website now.

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