Perfect Picnics: Three local chefs come up with the ultimate outdoor feast

Kick off your slippers, put down the remote and log off Facebook. It’s summer and there’s no better time to pack a basket, grab a blanket and head to a local park for a picnic.

But how to assemble a memorable meal that’s equally fuss free and palate pleasing? We turned to three local chefs—Dennis Friedman of Newton’s Table, 8407 Kitchen Bar’s Ed Witt and Michael Harr of Food Wine & Co.—and asked them to create the ultimate picnic lunch to feed four for under $100.

Our trio of toques stocked up on fresh, seasonal and local ingredients at area markets and devised menus that require little or no preparation. Keeping it simple was key for the chefs, who say they’d rather stay out of the kitchen on a day off and spend the time noshing and relaxing outdoors with family and friends.

Dennis Friedman

Chef-owner of Newton’s Table, Bethesda

Market: Whole Foods in Friendship Heights

Prep: Take 10 minutes to make everything ahead of time at home, so you can be present with your guests and enjoy the moment.

Prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe: Cut lengthwise strips of melon; top each with a couple of fresh basil leaves, a drizzle of honey and some Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings; and wrap each strip and toppings in a thin slice of the cured meat.
Mediterranean crostini: Cut a baguette lengthwise, rub the halves with a raw clove of garlic and then slice the bread into 2- to 3-inch sections. Rough-chop black olives and piquillo peppers to make a simple tapenade to spread on the bread.

Shrimp ceviche: Shell one dozen raw shrimp (of the size that would provide 31 to 35 shrimp per pound), cut them lengthwise down the spine and discard the black vein that runs down their backs. Squeeze two fresh lemons and one orange into a bowl, and add one minced shallot to the liquid. Let the shellfish sit in the marinade in the fridge or an ice-packed cooler for about 30 minutes before serving.

Beverage: A couple bottles of GT’s Classic Kombucha, a fermented tea

Dessert: Whole Foods Two-Bite Brownies

Favorite picnic spot: The C&O Canal in Potomac, right off the corner of MacArthur Boulevard and Falls Road. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported into the middle of the wilderness and forget that you’re anywhere near Washington, D.C.

Best picnic memory: One time at summer camp we went out for a picnic and got caught in a torrential downpour. We turned lemons into lemonade by spending the whole afternoon doing mudslides.

Find out what Michael Harr and Ed Witt whipped up by clicking through to the Bethesda Magazine website now.

Photo courtesy of flickr/beL0VED.

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The Despair of the New Dad: Paternal postpartum depression strikes about 1 in 10 fathers

Parenthood is always a shock to the system. “Frank,” a 48-year-old Adams Morgan resident, got hit even harder.

He and his wife decided that he would leave his job to be a stay-at-home dad when his daughter was born late last year. Although it was a role the first-time father had eagerly anticipated, the transition took an immediate toll.

“For the first two weeks, I was cross-eyed. It was intense,” says Frank, who asked to use a pseudonym as he undergoes therapy.

He had dealt with depression before, but he soon began to experience something different. He was constantly cranky, stopped cracking his usual jokes and began withdrawing.

“Part of it was the feeling of not being able to escape,” he says. “There’s no break.”

This initial reaction isn’t surprising, says Jennifer Kogan, a licensed independent clinical social worker in the District who focuses on children’s and parent’s issues.

“There’s sleep deprivation and a lot more to do,” Kogan says. “That’s when people start to have problems.”

In the ensuing weeks, Frank’s unhappiness escalated. “Every morning, it was completely grim,” he says. “I would relive the day before and how exhausted I was. I used to fantasize about doing fun things if I had free time; now I just wanted to be under the blankets in a dark cave.”

Finish reading this article on the Washington Post Express website now.

Artwork by Joseph Hirsch, Lunch Hour (1942)

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Top Ten Ways You Know You’re a Diehard D.C. Foodie

10. You know how to correctly pronounce Cathal and Rasika.

9. You’ve stood in line for two hours to spend an hour eating at Little Serow.

8. When you say you’re getting Baked & Wired, you have no intention of smoking a joint and then doing a line of coke.

7. You’ve eaten a Chivito, Luther, or half smoke…after midnight.

6. You follow both @chefjoseandres and @nowayjoseandres on Twitter.

5. You’ve driven all the way to Frederick just to eat at one of Bryan Voltaggio’s restaurants.

4. You have seen Carla Hall at the Silver Spring Whole Foods and had to stop yourself from yelling, “Hootie hoo!”

3. You make reference to Tom and Todd in conversation as if you know them and expect everyone around you to know whom you’re talking about.

2. You have paid $20 for a sandwich…from a food truck.

1. Your diet regularly includes pepperoni sauce, lamb carpaccio with Caesar salad ice cream, and crème brûlée doughnuts.

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Gator Ron’s Gives Back

Like many great ideas, it started with a few—well, more than a few—cocktails.

Ron Griffith was known for his Bloody Mary mix. Using lots of tomato juice, zingy fresh horseradish, habaneros, cracked black pepper, a little ground celery, and a few other ingredients, it was always a hit.

In fact, the mixture never failed to make him the center of attention whenever he and his wife, Connie, went boating on the Eastern Shore and tied up with a flotilla of partygoers.

The passionate home chef didn’t confine himself to cocktail mixers, though. He made a mean wing sauce and a spicy barbecue sauce, too.

Everyone called him Gator Ron. That’s because the University of Florida alum always wore something featuring the college’s alligator mascot.

“We’d go to black-tie events, and he’d wear his logoed leather bomber jacket,” says Connie.

After years of people telling him that he should sell his Bloody Mary mix, Ron brought an old soda bottle full of it to hot-sauce emporium Peppers in Lewes, Delaware.

“I’d never seen him nervous,” recalls his wife, “but he was that day.”

The aspiring entrepreneur shouldn’t have stressed out: They loved it. Peppers’ owner told him to come back when the mix was in a bottle and ready to stock.

“He high-fived me all the way home in the car,” says Connie.

Finish reading this story on the Maryland Life website now.

Photo courtesy of Vince Lupo and Maryland Life.

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Eat Like A Native: Culinary enlightenment awaits at Arlington’s ethnic outposts

You’ve overdosed on pad Thai, California rolls and kung pao chicken. You’ve eaten your body weight in food-truck burritos. Want to introduce your taste buds to something new and different? How about a lesser-known cuisine, such as Lao or Afghan? Or perhaps one of the mysterious dishes featured only on the non-English menu at that hole-in-the-wall you pass every so often.

In an area where nearly one quarter of residents were born outside the U.S. and public school kids speak 94 languages (per county statistics), authentic ethnic cuisine isn’t hard to find. We sent two of our top food writers on a mission to taste-test the dishes that Americans typically don’t order (but should). Here’s what they recommend.

Ethiopian

Eyo Restaurant and Sports Bar

3821-B South George Mason Drive, Falls Church; 703-933-3084

Always wash your hands before dinner—especially when you’re going to use them instead of a knife and fork. At Eyo, most dishes are served on a bed of slightly sour, spongy Ethiopian injera bread (choose between one made in-house, or an even-tangier option that is flown in daily from Addis Ababa), and the bread serves as your utensils. Rip off a strip, pinch it between your fingers and use it to grab a bit of meat with a dab of lentils. And be sure to let the pocked surface of the flatbread soak up some sauce. It’s hard not to derive a primal pleasure from eating this way, which could be why so many patrons here are smiling as they dig in to their dinners.

Owner Bizuwork Tafesse and his wife, Hiwot Fesseha (who developed the recipes and does some of the cooking), have been offering up generously portioned Ethiopian fare since 2007. As a general rule, Fesseha advises neophytes to start out with the vegetarian combo—a circle of injera bread, topped with mounds of yellow lentils, a citrus-infused cubed tomato salad, stewed cabbage and more. The best bite on the plate is the red lentils amped up with berbere, a traditional spice mix containing chilies, cloves, coriander and other seasonings, which Fesseha hand-imports from her homeland whenever she visits.

Carnivores should move directly on to the tibs, which are slow-cooked beef cubes served in several different stews that vary in spiciness. The awaze tibs dish, served in a rich tomato-based sauce with garlic, jalapeno and berbere, was my favorite. The doro wat—chicken served in a spicy red pepper sauce with a hard-boiled egg—is equally worthy of attention. To beat back the heat, order a St. George beer, a golden lager that’s been brewed in Ethiopia for nearly a century.

Tucked into the Build America plaza in Bailey’s Crossroads, the eatery is outfitted with eight flatscreen televisions, which are usually showing soccer (pardon me, football) games from around the world. During the FIFA World Cup, the sports bar overflows with fans. “It gets a little crazy,” says Fesseha. “People are really into it.”

Sounds like a good excuse to order another round of St. Georges for the table.

Finish reading this article on the Arlington Magazine website now.

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Best Restaurants Near DC’s Convention Center

After a long, tiring day of crisscrossing Washington, DC’s massive convention center making connections and sealing deals, it’s easy to cop out when it comes to dining out. Resist the temptation to order room service or settle for a familiar fast-food concept. Since you’re smack dab in the middle of the up ‘n’ coming Shaw neighborhood and within walking distance of the bustle of Chinatown and Penn Quarter, there are plenty of fantastic dining options spanning diverse cultures. Whether you’re in the mood for Mediterranean, itching for Italian or have a yen for ramen, or you’re looking to explore the latest cutting-edge cuisine, or just want a stellar sandwich, these top 5 restaurants near DC’s convention center are sure to satisfy.

Daikaya 

Two is better than one. Located just a few minutes’ walk away, in nearby Chinatown, this bi-level eatery features a ramen joint on the ground floor and an izakaya (Japanese tavern) above it. The downstairs noodle house is bursting with energy. Pop songs blare, conversations burble and the compact open kitchen hums. There are 4 broth choices for your ramen — classic shoyu, soy-based shio, barley fortified mugi-miso and a surprisingly satisfying vegetarian option.

Boost your bowl with braised pork belly, marinated bamboo, seaweed or a nitamago (soft-boiled egg). If you’d rather enjoy cocktails and small plates instead, climb the stairs to the dimly lit, dark wood-lined second level. For a quick fix, order up and slam down a round of Dai-drops — sake spheres sunken in Sapporo beers. When it comes to dining, grilled oysters dressed with sake, skewers of fried pork and Brussels sprouts and miso-braised mackerel are all good choices.

Finish reading this story on the Travel Channel’s website now.

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A Late Bite Out: The night owl’s guide to dining in the Bethesda area

The midnight hour is approaching. The movie you went to see has just let out. The show at The Music Center at Strathmore has ended. Or maybe you just wrapped up an intense, late-night workout at the gym. And you’re famished.

Most restaurants shut down their kitchens around 10 p.m., but an increasing number are staying open later these days. That means nighthawks don’t need to settle for cold leftovers at home, fast-food giants or the grab ’n’ go case at the 24-hour CVS. There are plenty of tasty options that span the culinary spectrum—from Caribbean-inspired small plates to Mediterranean favorites to American comfort food. Some are only open late on weekends, but several stay open late most nights. Here, listed in alphabetical order, are a dozen.

8407 Kitchen Bar

8407 Ramsey Ave., Silver Spring, 301-587-8407, 8407kb.com
11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to midnight Friday; 5 p.m. to midnight Saturday; 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sunday

From open to close, this cut-above neighborhood favorite offers a breakout menu of house-made charcuterie, cheese platters, salads, sandwiches and seafood. Whether you’re stopping by for an intimate tête-à-tête with a friend in the lounge or to mingle with the bar crowd, you can’t go wrong with fan favorites such as flash-fried buttermilk calamari served with a zesty salsa verde ($11), or the Cuban sandwich made with slow-brined roasted pork and pepped with a swipe of chimichurri sauce ($10).

American Tap Room

7278 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda, 301-656-1366, americantaproom.com
11:30 a.m. to midnight Monday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday;
10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday

Diet-be-damned appetizers take center stage at this downtown corner standby. The amended menu—offered from 10 p.m. until close Sundays through Thursdays and from 11 p.m. until close on weekends—includes fried deviled eggs (yes, you read that correctly) with a spicy pepper aioli ($6), and grilled Camembert cheese accompanied by honey-soaked walnuts and toasted bread ($10). This comfort food is an excellent accompaniment for watching the game on one of the many flat screens strategically positioned throughout the restaurant.

Finish reading this story on the Bethesda Magazine website now.

Photo courtesy of Mr Noded via Flickr.

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Out of the Kitchen: Local Chefs Playing a Different Tune

There’s a natural music in the kitchen—the rhythm of knives, the hum of the meat slicer, the sizzle of the grill. Some chefs keep rocking out after their shifts. These four are just as comfortable playing music as they are wielding a boning knife.

Vikram Sunderam: Chef at Rasika and Rasika West End

Instrument: Tabla, an Indian-style pair of drums.

His learning process: “If I hear something often enough, I can play it.”

Tip for tabla mastery: “You play with your hands, so you have to have skillful fingers.”

Influences: Indian tabla maestros Zakir Hussain and Alla Rakha.

Where he plays now: “I have a tabla set and a drum kit at home, so I definitely keep the neighbors up.”

What he listens to in the kitchen: Pop, rock, Bollywood tunes, Hindi music.

Finish reading this story on Washingtonian‘s Best Bites blog now.

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