7 Tips from Kapnos’ George Pagonis for Cooking the Perfect Thanksgiving Feast

Stressed out about pulling off the perfect Thanksgiving dinner? The once-a-year, mess-it-up-and-everyone-hates you epic gobblefest instills fear in the hearts of cooks across the country, but it shouldn’t. George Pagonis, executive chef and partner of the modern-minded Greek restaurant Kapnos in Washington, D.C., knows how to do it and has been kind enough to share his tricks and techniques to ensure your feast goes flawlessly.

1. Think about the time and space required to store, prep, refrigerate, and cook every item on your menu. It helps to create a master shopping list and a timeline. That let’s you know what you need to do and when and don’t get caught with your proverbial pants down on the big day.

2. Make anything you can in advance. A lot of items, such as cranberry sauce, pies, and mac ‘n’ cheese, taste just as good if you make them a day or two beforehand and simply warm them up right before you serve them. Other dishes, like salads, can be prepped the day before by chopping all the vegetables and assembled just before the meal.

3. Only do recipes you know and have made before. If you screw up, you screw up on a large scale. You don’t want to ruin anyone’s Thanksgiving. If you do want to try something new, do a test run beforehand so you can figure out any issues and troubleshoot when there isn’t a table full of hungry people watching your every move.

4. Clean as you go. As soon as you’re done with something, wash it. Not only will your sink fill up quickly, but you’ll find that as the day goes on you’ll need a pot or a piece of equipment and not have one because it’s dirty. Also, it’s easier to clean pots when they’re still warm, because food will come off them easily.

5. Let the turkey sit for at least half an hour after it comes out of the oven before you carve it. Cut into it too soon and all the liquids inside will just come gushing out, which will dry out the meat.

6. Stuff your turkey with aromatics, such as fresh thyme, fresh bay leaves, and fresh oregano. Fresh herbs make all the difference. Don’t settle for dried ones. Halved oranges – or other citrus – or pomegranates also work well as aromatics.

7. Don’t overlook the “oysters,” the tastiest and most tender parts of the turkey. The pair of succulent morsels is located in the small hollows on either side of the backbone. Dig them out with your fingers and enjoy them as a treat for all your hard work.


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.


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.


The Ten (Well, 15): Best Gifts for Gourmands

So many choices, so little time. The Ten is your guide to the best of the best that D.C. has to offer.

For this installment we want to help make your holiday shopping easier by suggesting a few gifts for the gourmands in your life. If you want to pick up a few presents for yourself, too, we won’t tattle.

Destination Cellars

Finally, you don’t need to become a shoplifter to score one of the designer sneakers used to serve croquetas at Jaleo. This über-über José Andrés Collection Gift Package comes with the famous footwear, as well as Andrés’ cookbook and a brace of Spanish wines. $950.

Society Fair

Every modern mixologist needs this Leather Bar Kit filled with the tools of the trade hand selected by cocktail king Todd Thrasher. There’s a julep strainer, muddler, and bar spoon and more. The witty repartee and shaker flipping tricks are your responsibility. $185.

Red Apron

Joy Division’s classic Unknown Pleasures album cover gets a meaty makeover on this killer t-shirt, which is sure to please carnivores and mopey musos alike. Available at the Union Market on Saturdays and Dupont Market on Sundays. $25.

Sugar Magnolia

Who doesn’t want pie for Christmas? Haters and communists, who probably aren’t on your gift list anyway. Chefs Logan Cox and Alison Reed are baking up both sweet and savory mini pies, including rosemary accented smoked albacore tuna and purple potatoes ($11), broccoli prosciutto parmesan ($11), and bourbon caramel pecan ($10 small, $20 large). For advance orders or special requests, email Chef Alison Reed at alison@rippledc.com.

Find out my other 11 gift suggestions by clicking over to CityEats’ Plate blog now.


The Ten: Best Pizzerias

So many choices, so little time. The Ten is your guide to the best of the best that D.C. has to offer.

This installment takes a look at the primo pie palaces around. Almost everyone has a strong opinion on their favorite slice, so we’re pretty sure that this list will ignite a fiery debate in the comments section over who was and wasn’t included.

2 Amys

This Cathedral Heights institution has been setting the bar for over a decade with its D.O.C. certified Neapolitans that are worth the wait.


Pizzaiolo Enzo Algarme turns out a steady stream of top-notch rounds that make a trip to Arlington feel like transatlantic journey to Naples.

Pizzeria Orso

A longtime favorite with Falls Church diners, this pizzeria continues to flourish under the steady hand of executive chef Will Artley who also turns out designer doughnuts for the weekend brunch.    


The wood fired zas at this Chinatown hot spot boast big personalities, just like chef-owner Mike Isabella. For a decadent breakfast for dinner, order the Countryman slathered with black truffle paste, dotted with pools of Fontina, and topped with a golden over-easy egg.


This friendly Neapolitan outpost in Silver Spring offers up a straightforward menu of lovingly crafted pizzas, including one dessert pie that’s sauced with Nutella and topped with strawberry slices.

Find out the rest of the top ten by clicking over to CityEats’ Plate blog now.


Take Your Pick

Restaurant hostess stands have long featured giveaways for departing diners — matchbooks, mints, the occasional toothpick. The only one that gets collectors excited, though, is the matchbook, an endangered species since D.C.’s restaurant smoking ban took effect in 2006. Several places, however, have come up with a popular alternative: branded boxes of toothpicks. “Our toothpicks purposely look like matchbooks so they can still fit in people’s collections,” says Gus DiMillo, co-owner of Passion Food Hospitality (which oversees Ceiba, District Commons and Passion Fish, among other restaurants), who didn’t want to see a longtime dining tradition disappear. Here are a few more branded boxes worth stashing away.

Finish reading this story on the Express website now.


Eat By Numbers: Bandolero

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 take a virtual trip south of the border to Mike Isabella’s recently opened modern Mexican restaurant Bandolero. While we’re down there, we find out how many margaritas get guzzled, the number of handmade tortillas the kitchen turns out, and how often the waitstaff get asked if Isabella is available for a picture.


Seats in the restaurant: 172

Varieties of tequila and mescal: 58

Types of margarita: Seven, including El Mata Amigos (The Friend Killer)

Different beers available: 10

Number of those brews that are Mexican: Seven

Margaritas sold last week: 2,454

Types of tacos: Eight, including a suckling pig with apple and habanero mustard and an adobo spiced octopus with cucumber relish

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

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Parker.


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.


Chef-driven: Local toques have a taste for custom wheels

Pulling into a restaurant parking lot these days can feel like arriving at a vintage car show or a motorcycle rally. Front-and-center parking spaces often showcase eye-catching, customized rides. These wheeled wonders don’t belong to VIP diners though. They’re how the chefs got to work.

Mike Isabella drives a pimped-out purple-and-black Honda Ruckus with chrome rims, an ostrich leather seat, racing tires and Graffiato logos emblazoned on it. Former BLT Steak executive chef Victor Albisu roars around in a restored black 1971 Mercedes 280SL convertible, while Cork Market chef Kristin Hutter favors an apple-red 1970 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. Husband-wife team Kyle Bailey and Tiffany MacIsaac of Birch & Barley/ChurchKey prefer modern conveyances, so they each drive a MINI Cooper.

Motorcycles are particularly popular with toques. Cliff Wharton, executive chef at Matchbox in Chinatown, has a 2006 Harley Davidson Night Train. He hits the road regularly with a group of culinary colleagues known as Chefs on Bikes, which has included Brasserie Beck’s chef-owner Robert WiedmaierBayou Bakery’s chef-owner David GuasRogue 24’s chef-owner R.J. CooperOld Ebbitt Grill’s executive chef Robert McGowan, Passion Food Hospitality partner David Wizenberg and “whoever else wants to ride,” according to Wharton.

Finish reading this story on the Washington Post‘s All You Can Eat blog now.

Photo of Victor Albisu courtesy of Victor Albisu.