Little Bites: Tom Elder of Härth’s Sloppy Bobs Sliders

Oftentimes chefs don’t want to cook another meal when they get home after an arduous 12-hour stretch behind the burners. But throwing together a comforting snack to help take the edge off the day is another proposition entirely. These scrumptious nibbles don’t require a degree from the Culinary Institute of America to make, but they’re worthy of winning a Top Chef Quickfire Challenge.

This week, Härth’s executive chef Tom Elder shares the recipe for his sweet ‘n’ spicy Sloppy Bobs sliders. Spiked with roasted ghost chili pepper puree, these little sammies pack a big punch. Make sure to be careful when you’re adding the pepper puree – you don’t want to get that stuff in your eyes. Unless, of course, you like looking like a red-eyed freak who can’t stop screaming.

Get the recipe on the CityEats’ Plate blog now.


Gourmet sloppy Joes for a second taste of childhood

I haven’t eaten a sloppy Joe since I was 9 years old, when they were an easy way for my mother to make a kid-friendly meal that appealed to my carnivorous father. Everyone at the table could customize their sandwich as they pleased. A blanket of shredded sharp cheddar, a scattering of diced onions and a few bread and butter pickles was how I rolled back then. But somehow the sloppy Joe fell out of our dinnertime rotation, probably because mom was trying to cut back on red meat.

The sloppy Joe is not a dish I’ve ever ordered in a restaurant, either. Why pay for something so simple that’s usually marked up so much? Lately though, several chefs have started to put their spin on the sloppy Joe. Would their versions be tasty and heartwarming reminders of my childhood or just creative ways to gouge a guy looking for a heartwarming reminder of his childhood?

My first step down memory lane was at BLT Steak, where executive chef Victor Albisu is offering the VP ($24), also known as the Sloppy Joe Biden. This is definitely not like the one mom used to make, since Albisu uses ground Kobe beef. Everything else in his recipe is pretty much the same: tomatoes, brown sugar, vinegar and bell pepper. The sauce has a thicker consistency so it doesn’t drip off the bun, and the flavors are spot-on. I won’t make a habit of enjoying a $24 sloppy Joe, but this one is worth the splurge.

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


Takeaway Tchotchkes: Giving guests something to take home reinforces good memories and inspires return visits

Sometimes you walk away from a meal with more than a full belly.

Many restaurants like to send guests home with a small souvenir of their visit. It can be as simple as a box of toothpicks, but it might be a gourmet goodie or a gift that ties into the eatery’s ethos.

By thinking outside the matchbox, these freebies can build a brand, create customers or highlight promotions.

“First impression is lasting, but so is your last impression,” says Olivia Young, a spokeswoman for Marea in New York City. To make sure that diners leave on a high note, female customers (“We’d never say no to a gentleman who asks,” Young assures) at dinner service are sent away with an individually wrapped currant muffin topped with brown butter streusel made by pastry chef Jim Eckler.

“If we gave out small boxes of truffles, guests would probably eat them when they left, while they were still full,” Young explains. “We wanted to make a treat that they would look forward to enjoying the next morning.”

The restaurant gives away about 120 muffins daily, which cost about 60 cents each, for a total of $26,000 annually.

Finish reading this article on the Restaurant Management website now.


Burning Desire

Ever since Neanderthals discovered fire, people have been gathering around flames to seek warmth, companionship and whatever was cooking over the coals. Even without mastodon on the menu, a blazing hearth still draws a hungry crowd. When temperatures dip, “you want to rub your elbows and order something hearty,” says Equinox chef-owner Todd Gray. “You don’t want to be eating tomatoes and mozzarella.” Here are four of our favorite hot spots for huddling up and getting in touch with your inner caveperson.

Circle Bistro

Executive chef Ethan McKee knows firsthand that having a wood-burning fireplace can be a lifesaver. “I was trapped in [One Washington Circle Hotel, where the restaurant is] for almost a week during Snowmageddon,” he says. A blizzard doesn’t have to be the reason you cozy up to this bistro’s roaring fireplace. A bowl of Chesapeake Oyster Chowder dotted with applewood bacon and topped with crispy leeks ($8, below) can be enjoyed anytime. It pairs well with a Mad Men Manhattan, sweetened with a dash of vermouth ($12).

Circle Bistro, 1 Washington Circle NW; 202-293-5390. (Foggy Bottom)

Finish reading this red-hot story on the Express website now.


‘Tis the Season to be Crafty

Martha Stewart makes picture perfect holidays look easy, but building gingerbread houses and decorating cookies can be the toughest tasks of the Yuletide season. To aid aspiring Marthas, a number of area restaurants are offering Christmas-y culinary classes. These are our top picks for learning how to make the season’s best bites look fabulous and taste divine.

The Fairmont Washington, D.C.

Saturday, December 10 at 10:30 a.m.

$60 per child

This class is the perfect solution if you want to build a gingerbread house with your kids, but don’t want your kitchen to look like a flour and sugar bomb went off. You and the little ones can sip on some holiday refreshments, while getting your hands dirty affixing gumdrops to the roof and Skittles to the walls. You’ll leave with a personalized gingerbread house and no mess to clean up. A truly sweet deal. Make a reservation by calling 202-457-5019 or by emailing

Find out the four other Christmas-y classes you can take by clicking over to CityEats’ The Plate blog now.

Photo courtesy of The Fairmont Washington, D.C.



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


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.”

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,

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,

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


Seeds of Summer: D.C. Restaurants Get Creative With Watermelon


Hundreds of years ago, resourceful explorers used watermelons as canteens, because the hefty fruits are 92 percent H20 (the name might have been a clue). Today, watermelons are in high demand with a different type of adventurer — the culinary kind. Master chefs and mixologists are finding new ways to use the watermelon, which has taken a starring turn in everything from cooling cocktails to sunny salads. “Watermelon means summer to me,” says Härth’s executive chef, Tom Elder. “It’s a classic American fruit that we can all relate to.” Even when it’s unrecognizable.

“People don’t associate watermelon with Mediterranean cooking,” concedes head chef Michael Costa. “But it’s actually quite prevalent.” Case in point is the Aegean eatery’s seared Halloumi (a Greek cheese made with sheep’s and goat’s milk) and melon salata ($9.50). A slab of the griddled cheese sits at the center of the plate, surrounded by a ring of compressed watermelon cubes, light green squares of pickled watermelon rind and half orbs of roasted cherry tomato.
» 701 9th St. NW; 202-638-0800,

Finish reading this piece and find out my other four watermelon picks by clicking over to the Express website now.


Burning Bright: Harth Restaurant at McLean Tysons Corner


District gastronomes can tell what time of year it is just by walking through a farmers market. Wild morel mushrooms mean it’s springtime, while strawberries signal summer. Harth‘s executive chef Tom Elder wants to stay in step with Mother Nature at the recently opened eatery at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner hotel. That’s why he offers a seasonal menu that will change at least four times annually. “Yes, I can get any ingredient I want at any time of year,” he says. “But getting raspberries from overseas in the middle of the winter leaves an uncomfortably big carbon footprint.”

Vision: “The one thing we knew for certain was that we didn’t want to be just another hotel restaurant,” explains Elder. To rise above this mundane classification, the eatery has an herb and vegetable garden behind the hotel. The chicken, turkey and pork come from Upperville, Va.’s Ayrshire Farms, while a flock of Rhode Island heirloom hens provide the eggs. “We’re in one of the richest food belts of the country,” says Elder, “so the farm-to-table concept seemed like a natural choice.”

Finish reading this feature on the Express website.