Unpredictable Presentations

Plates are passé and bowls, boring.

That’s why chefs and mixologists are turning to unorthodox vessels that are as memorable and stunning as the foods they contain. Here are a few standout serving pieces now appearing at tables near you.

Branzino in a Cigar Box

Elisir chef-owner Enzo Fargione puts a personal spin on his dishware. Since he likes to unwind after a long day in the kitchen by smoking a stogie, Fargione decided to playfully reuse his cigar boxes as serving vessels for smoked branzino carpaccio ($17). Finely filleted fish sauced with a lemon-lime-orange dressing, roasted garlic chips, microgreens and a scattering of seasonal mushrooms are placed in the box, along with a few smoldering applewood chips. When the box is opened at the table minutes later, a puff of smoke emerges.

“It always surprises guests, even if they’ve had it before,” says Fargione. “It adds a sense of glamour to the meal.” Not only does the dish possess the slightly sweet, hazy flavor of the embers, but the smoke itself ends up picking up hints of citrus and fungi.

Elisir, 427 11th St. NW; 202-546-0088.

Finish reading this article on the Express website now.

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Pop Stars – Restaurants will fill your cup with fizzy fruit juice and herbs

A new trend is bubbling up: Restaurants are making their own sodas in-house, without the high-fructose corn syrup, the preservatives or the weird additives you usually gulp. Cool off this summer by ordering up one of these refreshments — in sizes even New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg would approve of.

Founding Farmers

From-scratch sodas are so popular at this farm-to-table restaurant’s Potomac location that they outsell Coke and Diet Coke combined. Chief mixologist Jon Arroyo wants to drop commercial colas entirely, so he’s been working on his own version for more than a year. “It’s the hardest soda to make,” he says. “Just think of all the artisanal colas you like. There probably aren’t any.” The good news is he’s already nailed the pineapple pop ($5), which includes a squirt of lime juice and fresh mint. 12505 Park Potomac Ave., Potomac, Md.; 301-340-8783.

Finish reading this article on the Express website now.

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Eat By Numbers – Elisir

When you dine out, you might think about the ingredients that go into your food, but you probably don’t think about all the numbers that make your meal happen. Restaurants are filled with interesting figures that might not be apparent when you bite into an enticing entrée or take a sip of a signature cocktail, but they’re all around you.

This week we pop down to Elisir – a bastion of Italian modernism in Penn Quarter – to find out just how many pastas they make by hand and to discover the number of grappas you can enjoy after one of chef-owner Enzo Fargione’s epic tasting dinners.

Elisir

Maximum capacity: 117

Cameras capturing the culinary team at work: Three

Televisions broadcasting the action in the kitchen: Five

Pastas made in house: Nine, including saffron fettuccine, giant agnolotti, red beet tortelli filled with cheese fondue, and saffron fagotti filled with liquid truffle

Cigar boxes kept on hand for the branzino carpaccio dish: 18

Get the rest of the numbers by clicking over to CityEats’ Plate blog now.

Photo courtesy of Michael Palmer.

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