The Ten: Best Doughnuts

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

This time around we’re tackling Home Simpson’s favorite food that’s not beer: doughnuts.

Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken

I have seen the future of doughnuts and its name is Astro. Former Fiola pastry chef Jason Gehring has reinvented the jelly doughnut by turning it into a square with a hole at the center. He pipes the filling into the four struts, thereby maximizing the jelly to dough ratio. Genius! His tropical take on the sweet includes a tangy passion fruit glaze and a just-tart-enough lemon curd. The shop doesn’t open until early next year, but Astro is catering events this holiday season.

Lyon Hall

Doughnuts are a must-order when you brunch at this corner favorite in Arlington. The flavors rotate, so you might get the sweet heat of an Asian five-spice, coffee-spiked mocha, or a straight-up vanilla glazed. You also get a free doughnut hole with if you order the platter of four. Winning!

Pizzeria Orso

You probably don’t expect doughnuts at a pizzeria, but executive chef Will Artley is a master of the sweet treats. Order the lemon glazed crowned with a spiral of rich Nutella cream. After you’ve stopped softly sobbing with joy and licked your fingers, you can drop us a thank you email.


The sterling brunch at this Silver Spring standard-bearer is made even better by a plate of pastry chef Carolyn Crow’s doughnuts. Choose between chocolate, raspberry and dulce de leche – or go on a binge and get all three.

Krispy Kreme

When the Hot Now sign lights up, it triggers an irresistible Pavlovian urge for freshly fried glazed doughnuts. It doesn’t matter that Krispy Kreme is a global chain, they still make a damn fine doughnut that deserves your utmost respect.

Find out the rest of the top ten at CityEats’ Plate blog now.


Protein Bar Challenge: I Get By With a Little Help From My Chef Friends (Day 14)

Chefs are constantly surrounded by unhealthy food choices in the kitchen, and it’s their job to be testing it relentlessly. Oftentimes these quick bites don’t add up to a full meal, so they end up eating dinner late at night or early in the wee hours of the morning after work (and they usually aren’t choosing salads). Most gyms are closed at those hours, which leaves precious little time in the morning to get in a workout before they’re back on the line again.

This is all to say that chefs have the most barriers of any profession when it comes to eating well and exercising regularly (though food writers are a close second). So I chatted with five of them – Cathal Armstrong (Restaurant Eve), Jeff Tunks (Fuego Cocina y Tequileria), David Guas (Bayou Bakery), Glenn Rolnick (Carmine’s) and Dennis Marron (Poste) – who have undertaken weight loss programs and/or exercise regimens to see how they handled it. Their answers are an inspiration to me as I continue on with my Protein Bar Challenge, which has helped me drop 10 pounds in the past two weeks.

Cathal Armstrong – Chef/Owner of Restaurant Eve

When did you know that you had to lose weight?

I looked at a photo and said, ‘Who is this guy?’ I had big love handles, and you couldn’t tell where my chin started and my neck ended.

What finally made you go on a diet and start exercising?

I went in for a physical and weighed in at 221, the heaviest I had ever been. Between the photo and the doctor’s visit, that was it. I had to do something, particularly if I’m going to be an advocate for healthy school lunches for kids. I mean, I can’t be fat; that just looks ridiculous.

What was that regimen?  

I stopped drinking soda completely and eliminated alcohol 100 percent, except on Sunday. Mostly I changed when I eat, not what I eat. I have dinner with the staff at 4:30, and then I don’t eat after that. I didn’t give up anything. I eat more fruit, more raw food and fiber in my diet, take a good vitamin supplement and spirulina, a super-food. And I drink lots of water. The other big thing is exercise: energy in, energy out. I took up Tae Kwon Do, which is my passion.  I work out 6 times a week and am currently the National Champion in my weight class.

How much weight did you lose?

Initially, I lost 24 pounds. However, I have kept up with Tae Kwon Do and eating right, so I lost about 40 pounds total.  Right now I am in the best shape of my life.

What was the hardest part?

The hardest part of working out is the first day. Realistically though, it’s the second day, because, after your first workout, you are going to be very sore.  Getting through the barrier of the initial pain of working out for the first time takes a lot of determination and focus.  Mentally prepare yourself for it.  I started working out in the gym first before I went to a trainer and that was definitely helpful.

What food did you miss the most?

Late night sandwiches. I used to love to come home from work and have a turkey and cheese sandwich before I went to bed, but really any sandwich late at night was night was delicious.

Is there a food that you came to love?

When you work out you start craving certain food.  One thing I really craved was fruits, and I really couldn’t get enough of them – pears, apples, peaches, oranges, whatever was lying around.  More vegetables, too. It’s funny that somehow when you are exercising your body knows what you need.

Do you have tip that helped you during your weight loss?

Pick a date that you are going to start working out.  Don’t break it; don’t make any excuses.  Start slowly.  I started initially with an app on my phone, going to the gym. I gradually built towards getting physically fit again. Later on, a personal trainer made a huge difference. When I knew someone was there waiting for me to meet, that I had an appointment, it made me get up on days that were raining or I didn’t feel like getting out of bed.  It really motivated me not to break my commitment.  Really determination is the biggest thing – you have to decide that you want to do it and are committed. Then once you start, it’s actually pretty easy.  The initial weight comes off really quickly. Having a scale in the bathroom where you monitor your weight at a set time each week really helps. Watching those pounds fall off is so encouraging and it keeps you going.

Finish reading this story on the CityEats’ Plate blog now.


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.


The Dish: DC’s Top Dog

New York has Coney Island dogs, Hawaii is the home of puka dogs, and the Windy City is famous for Chicago dogs. The District has its own specialty sausage: the half-smoke. For more than half a century, these kielbasa-sized wieners have been D.C.’s favorite street food.

Like many regional favorites, there is a long-standing debate over what constitutes a classic half-smoke, but there are some generally agreed upon elements.

First of all, there should be a snap when you bite through the casing. The meat mixture inside is oftentimes half pork and half beef, possessing both slightly spicy and smoky notes. Either grilled whole or split down the middle, these quarter pounders are then popped into fresh steamed or griddled buns. Toppings vary, but almost always include chili with some spots adding a combination of shredded cheddar, a squirt of mustard, freshly diced onions and relish.

Finish reading this story on the Endless DC site now.

Photo of Firefly’s half-smoke topped with bacon chili and pickled ramp mustard courtesy of Firefly.


Eat By Numbers: Poste

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 peek inside Penn Quarter’s bustling brasserie, Poste, where the staff takes great pride in handcrafting infused liquors, a super spicy hot sauce and creative cocktail elixirs.


Infused spirits made in-house: 13, including bacon vodka, cinnamon and chili rum, espresso rye, garden mint bourbon, ancho chili tequila, Earl Grey tea vodka and green pepper tequila

Housemade syrups for cocktails: 6, including a miso caramel sauce

Champagnes on the menu: 26 by the bottle and 3 by the glass

Virginia wines available: 4, but the restaurant hopes to include more soon

Pieces in the Congress Plateux de Fruits de Mer: 94, including 3 dozen oysters, 2 dozen clams, 1 dozen shrimp, 1 dozen mussels, 8 crab claws, 1 plate of ceviche, and 1 whole lobster

Find out the rest of the numbers by clicking over to CityEats’ The Plate blog now. 


Hang in There

Your memory’s maybe a bit fuzzy on the exact sequence of events from last New Year’s Eve. But bet you can’t forget the next morning, when you had to pay the price — and it was way higher than the credit card charge for that round of Jell-O shots. To ensure that the first day of 2012 isn’t a repeat of that head-pounding punishment, try one of these hangover helpers.

The Chef’s Recipe

When Dennis Marron, the executive chef at Poste (555 8th St. NW; 202-783-6060), wakes up after one too many, he makes a beeline for the fruit bowl on his kitchen counter. “The sooner you get something in your stomach, the better off you are,” he says. “Melons are good because of the high water content.” For a purely liquid breakfast to help you rehydrate from the previous night’s debauchery, he prefers coconut water or carrot juice. However, if you’re looking for something a little heartier that won’t break any of your New Year’s resolutions, Marron recommends frying up a few egg whites.

Find out the tips from the doctor, mixologist and trainer by clicking over to the Express website now.

Photo courtesy of Daniele Marlenek/marlenekzio on Flickr.


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.


Yuletide Froth for All: Eggnog Without the Carton

20101216-eggnog-250This holiday season, eggnog is getting trendy and tasty updates from mixologists all over the city.

At the newly merged Ardeo+Bardeo, sommelier and manager Tim Galvin is shaking together Stoli Vanilla, eggnog and pumpkin puree to create Pumpkin Eggnog. Served on the rocks with cinnamon sprinkled on top, “it has those warm autumn colors and flavors,” Galvin explains. “Those always heat people up when it’s cold outside.”

Eggnog’s European roots don’t mean bartenders from elsewhere around the globe can’t put their own stamps on it. Jason Storch at Indian restaurant Rasika has injected his version with the style of the subcontinent by using a date-infused cognac and date puree. Served in a snifter, the nog is finished off with just a smidge of black sea salt speckling the top. Read on over at the Express website.