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Cuisine "Native" to the District


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#31 spaghetttti

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Posted 09 November 2004 - 07:26 PM

Aaaah so, thank you Chef Shogun. The ones that I recall were grilled in places such as Waffle Shop, et al.

Edited by spaghetttti, 09 November 2004 - 07:26 PM.

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#32 Chef Shogun

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Posted 09 November 2004 - 07:56 PM

Yes, grilled is the superior way!
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#33 landrumm2000

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Posted 09 November 2004 - 08:53 PM

The true "Native" cuisine, found here and only here--where it was born and the only locale that supports its woeful existence--is the $25 plate of bad, bad, insultingly inadequate pasta. The argument gains irrefutable support by the fact that so many here claim this as the source of our culinary patrimony and pride.

Like any indigenous species, its nativity is evidenced by its genetic dominance and variance close the source--the horrible $20 plate of pasta, the shockingly bad $35 risotto, the merely miserable $22 gnocchi and the sad, defeated $18 gummy starch of no particular distinction but called "house-made"--and its extended range close to home.

No other foodstuff is the source of such affected local pride, and this particular food item cannot be found elsewhere. The $25 plate of inadequate pasta does not survive elsewhere due to the ease with which it is defeated by its nemesis, the honest, soulfull $15 plate of good, solid pasta, salad included, which sadly is evinced here nowhere since it cannot survive the noxious fumes of pretense and, yes, arrogance, that pervade throughout.

#34 eunny jang

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Posted 10 November 2004 - 05:48 PM

I'd venture to say that mediocre Thai food is the "signature cuisine" of the greater DC area.

#35 Mark Sommelier

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Posted 11 November 2004 - 12:25 AM

The single greatest pasta dish I ever had in my life was recently served to me at the bar at Galileo. Rocks was a witness. It was a spaghetti Putanesca. It could not have been more perfectly cooked.
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#36 landrumm2000

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Posted 11 November 2004 - 08:33 AM

The single greatest pasta dish I ever had in my life was recently served to me at the bar at Galileo. Rocks was a witness. It was a spaghetti Putanesca. It could not have been more perfectly cooked.

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The pyramids are beautiful too, and to this day continue to amaze, inspire and delight.

#37 morela

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Posted 11 November 2004 - 10:53 AM

...and if we cannot agree on a native plate of gummy, then we must agree on a native plate size. Washington has a lot of small plates, it's a little tapastry of everything. Small plates and mini-me versions are ubiquitous. In places you never even expected....

Everywhere, Everywhere, Everywhere...

But we can't stop getting bigger.

Washington, little plates, big people (powerful, politics, public relations)

Edited by morela, 11 November 2004 - 11:16 AM.

...

#38 puchica

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Posted 11 November 2004 - 03:59 PM

I've never posted, but as a native Washingtonian I've got to weigh in on this one. If you are looking for the local speciality eaten by the most locals (as opposed to the many folks who are just here for a few years), then I have to agree with the City Paper article of a few years ago that narrowed it down to the half smoke and "mambo" sauce. Both are staples in the parts of the city without "gourmet" restaurants and don't seem to exist anywhere else. When my seventh grade students went to NYC last year they were dumfounded when they couldn't get mambo sauce for their wings.
You can't write them off just cause you only get them at carry-outs and hot-dog stands... Philly cheese-steaks and Providence, RI hot wieners aren't exactly down-home family recipes either. As for where to buy half smokes - Eastern market has a wide selection, and you can even get them hot off one of those 7-11 style hot dog rollers.

e.d.

#39 iamthestretch

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Posted 11 November 2004 - 05:44 PM

Humor me, I'm an out-of-towner. How does "mambo" sauce differ from run of the mill hot sauce? And does it only crop up on wings?
"Mine goes off like a rocket." -- Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, Feb. 16.

#40 eunny jang

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Posted 11 November 2004 - 05:47 PM

What do people eat at places where go-go dancing happens (one of the only truly native contributions to the, uh, arts to come out of Washington, right?)?

#41 spaghetttti

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Posted 11 November 2004 - 05:58 PM

I've never posted, but as a native Washingtonian I've got to weigh in on this one. e.d.

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Mambo sauce, now that does bring back memories!! By the way, welcome to the surface, puchica!
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#42 misscindy

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Posted 12 November 2004 - 08:03 AM

What do people eat at places where go-go dancing happens (one of the only truly native contributions to the, uh, arts to come out of Washington, right?)?

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This brings to mind something here in Baltimore that I call the pit beef - porno connection. Where you find one, you will find the other. (With the notable exception of the Block, downtown, it is an outlying area rule.) For a reason that I don't understand, I like thinking about a big construction worker type all hopped up on the sight of nekkid ladies chowing down on a beef sandwich the size of his head. Disturbing yet perfect imagery.

#43 eunny jang

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Posted 12 November 2004 - 05:11 PM

What do people eat at places where go-go dancing happens (one of the only truly native contributions to the, uh, arts to come out of Washington, right?)?

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This brings to mind something here in Baltimore that I call the pit beef - porno connection. Where you find one, you will find the other. (With the notable exception of the Block, downtown, it is an outlying area rule.) For a reason that I don't understand, I like thinking about a big construction worker type all hopped up on the sight of nekkid ladies chowing down on a beef sandwich the size of his head. Disturbing yet perfect imagery.

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This makes the name of "Club Bunns" on Lexington Street even more frightening.

Edited to say: remove a few words of your choice from the following statement, rearrange them if you like to cheat, and it can be hysterically obscene

a big construction worker type all hopped up on the sight of nekkid ladies chowing down on a beef sandwich the size of his head


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Eunny

Edited by eunny jang, 12 November 2004 - 06:13 PM.


#44 John Talbott

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Posted 12 March 2008 - 07:26 AM

OK, here's a challenge.
Every year I take my French colleagues out to lunch during our professional meeting and then they treat me in France the whole rest of the year (not a bad deal, eh?) I try to show them food they cannot get in the hexagon and that is typical of the region - Cajun in New Orleans, Crabs in Baltimore, Mexican in San Diego, Soul in Atlanta, hot dogs in Chicago, etc.
However, I'm stumped when it comes to thinking about a cuisine that is DC's own; reading several topics and my own preferences (Cafe Atlantico, Les Halles, Red Sage, Lebanese Taverna, etc., reveals that DC is really international, but they can get all that back home, except maybe great Mexican and Peruvian chicken.
So what is DC cuisine and where do we get it (reasonably)?
Thanks.
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#45 Busboy

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Posted 12 March 2008 - 10:19 AM

This is a question that has often been asked and debated and I think it's essentially the wrong question.

DC was -- until earlier this century -- was a modest-sized city (half the size of Baltimore) in the middle of a sleepy little region. Rather than drawing unskilled workers drawn to the employment possibilities of local industry and supported by welcoming immigrant communities, we drew random clerks, scientists, curators and soldiers who intermingled and intermarried, leaving us with a kind of a homogenized bourgeois mix that didn't have the clout to put any particular ethnic stamp on the culinary scene or any single tradition to define it. And it was hardly the kind of city -- like Paris or New York -- to draw famed chefs who might perfect some variation of haute cuisine.

DC shouldn't really be thought of as a distinct spot. Culinarily-speaking, it's where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Shenadoah Vally and the Great Migration, which makes it mostly the south, with a side of fish. Ham, soul food, oysters and crabs, anything with the extraordinary fruit that Virginia and Pennsylvania produce....it's a great mix. Unfortunately, it's a mix more easily enjoyed by farmers market shoppers and fish-market customers than expense account diners in fancy restaurants.

I think Vidalia has been doing a good job capturing that mix, in an upscale sort of way (I had truffle on macaroni and cheese last time I was there). The Hitching Post serves up fired chicken, greens and the like and has a great soul/jazz jukebox, but service can be trying -- it's run by an older woman who does all the cooking herself. Georgia Brown's has a decidedly mixed reputation. The Florida Avenue Grill is essentially a diner; some say it's lost a step.

And, of course, if we mostly missed out on the "old wave" immigrants -- and what was left of Chinatown -- we have some excellent Ethiopian food and a number of small Salvadoran places.. Not fine dining, but often quite tasty.
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#46 John Talbott

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 02:37 PM

This is a question that has often been asked and debated and I think it's essentially the wrong question.

For which I apologize.

...DC shouldn't really be thought of as a distinct spot.  Culinarily-speaking, it's where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Shenadoah Vally and the Great Migration, which makes it mostly the south, with a side of fish.  Ham, soul food, oysters and crabs, anything with the extraordinary fruit that Virginia and Pennsylvania produce....it's a great mix.

So how about a place that say, specializes in Virginia ham, like we have in Pomze, Rouge Tomate, Coco & Co, JGo + Meating which respectively focus on Apples, Tomatoes, Eggs, Lamb and Beef? Not all great but not bad either.
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#47 monavano

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 04:34 PM

This is a question that has often been asked and debated and I think it's essentially the wrong question.

For which I apologize.

...DC shouldn't really be thought of as a distinct spot.  Culinarily-speaking, it's where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Shenadoah Vally and the Great Migration, which makes it mostly the south, with a side of fish.  Ham, soul food, oysters and crabs, anything with the extraordinary fruit that Virginia and Pennsylvania produce....it's a great mix.

So how about a place that say, specializes in Virginia ham, like we have in Pomze, Rouge Tomate, Coco & Co, JGo + Meating which respectively focus on Apples, Tomatoes, Eggs, Lamb and Beef? Not all great but not bad either.

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A local specialty is shad roe, which is in season now. Oceanaire Seafood Restaurant is serving it up now:
Shad at The Oceanaire Seafood Room
Shad began to make its first appearance in early February and diners can enjoy this classic East Coast favorite at The Oceanaire Seafood Room from now until the end of the season, which will probably run until May. Executive chef Rob Klink has created pan-fried shad and shad roe with crisped bacon, asparagus and citrus beurre blanc, for $29. Guests can also order just the roe for $28 or just the fish for $25. The Oceanaire Seafood Room, 1201 F St. NW, Washington, DC, 202-347-BASS.

#48 mnebergall

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 06:12 PM

Busboy is right that there is no local cuisine to speak of. But shad roe is a local seasonal speciality that is just coming into season; when the shad start to spawn. In additioin to Oceanaire (which is a chain), I would check the menus at Vidalia and Bistro Bis to see if it is available.

Edited by mnebergall, 13 March 2008 - 06:13 PM.


#49 Holly Moore

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 06:30 PM

There is nothing more uniquely DC than a half-smoke from Ben's Chili Bowl. For sure, a different level of sophistication than some of the other recommendations. Guess it depends on what you can get away with, colleague wise. It could be a lot of fun. And definitely, reasonable in price.

Edited by Holly Moore, 13 March 2008 - 06:31 PM.

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#50 Mark Sommelier

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 08:34 PM

OK, here's a challenge.
Every year I take my French colleagues out to lunch during our professional meeting and then they treat me in France the whole rest of the year (not a bad deal, eh?)  I try to show them food they cannot get in the hexagon and that is typical of the region - Cajun in New Orleans, Crabs in Baltimore, Mexican in San Diego, Soul in Atlanta, hot dogs in Chicago, etc.
However, I'm stumped when it comes to thinking about a cuisine that is DC's own; reading several topics and my own preferences (Cafe Atlantico, Les Halles, Red Sage, Lebanese Taverna, etc., reveals that DC is really international, but they can get all that back home, except maybe great Mexican and Peruvian chicken.
So what is DC cuisine and where do we get it (reasonably)?
Thanks.

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John,
I have lived here and worked in the fine dining business for 30 years. I read all the responses after yours yesterday and confidently say that they are all wrong. There is no indiginous cuisine here that is unique to DC. Crappy, greasy half-smokes are available in every direction for hundred of miles. Shad and shad roe are a greater Chesapeake-James River specialty and are enjoyed in Richmond and Baltimore, too. Washington has changed so much and so often in the past 50 years that it's impossible to say what local cooking is about. The only consideration anymore when dining out in DC is : is the food edible and the service half good? Sorry to sound so negative. The local eatery that satisfies your criteria: Old Glory in Georgetown. Chinatown has some good places but is scary at the same time. Go to Peru for Peruvian chicken, please.
Mark

#51 Mark Sommelier

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 08:34 PM

There is nothing more uniquely DC than a half-smoke from Ben's Chili Bowl.  For sure, a different level of sophistication than some of the other recommendations.  Guess it depends on what you can get away with, colleague wise.  It could be a lot of fun.  And definitely, reasonable in price.

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WRONG, for many reasons.
Mark

#52 Holly Moore

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 06:03 AM

There is nothing more uniquely DC than a half-smoke from Ben's Chili Bowl.  For sure, a different level of sophistication than some of the other recommendations.  Guess it depends on what you can get away with, colleague wise.  It could be a lot of fun.  And definitely, reasonable in price.

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WRONG, for many reasons.

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Yet still right for all the RIGHT reasons.
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#53 Busboy

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 07:09 AM

This is a question that has often been asked and debated and I think it's essentially the wrong question.

For which I apologize.

...DC shouldn't really be thought of as a distinct spot.  Culinarily-speaking, it's where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Shenadoah Vally and the Great Migration, which makes it mostly the south, with a side of fish.  Ham, soul food, oysters and crabs, anything with the extraordinary fruit that Virginia and Pennsylvania produce....it's a great mix.

So how about a place that say, specializes in Virginia ham, like we have in Pomze, Rouge Tomate, Coco & Co, JGo + Meating which respectively focus on Apples, Tomatoes, Eggs, Lamb and Beef? Not all great but not bad either.

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Let me be rephrase -- it was the wrong question in a larger, philosophical sense, not a question that it was wrong of your to ask. DC is just too small and new to have a distinctive cuisine all its own, but if you think of it as part of a larger region, you might be on to something. No need to apologize.

A place that specializes in Virginia ham might be great, but, sadly, I don't know of any. Just for fun, though, you might look into the restaurants that buys pork from Eco-Friendly. . The have a national reputation and their pigs are raise locally, and the Tabard Inn is usually a decent place to eat a meal, and distinctively DC (check out the painting by the hostess stand if you go) though they recently changed chefs and I have heard little.
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#54 monavano

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 09:19 AM

Along with what Busboy is saying, perhaps the question in not what our local cuisine is, but how and where can you taste the terroir? (I hope I'm using that term correctly). Our local market scene is rife with produce, animal products, herbs etc. There is a growing number of chefs who are focusing their menus on local foods and cooking seasonally with them.
So, although the type of cuisine or manner of cooking can be had in Paris, Parisians can't taste food grown from our soil (VA/MD/PA), cheese and meat from cows, goats, chicken, pigs etc. who feed in our pastures and woods.
I love our markets, so this is what excites me and is what I would want to share about where I live.

Edited by monavano, 14 March 2008 - 09:19 AM.


#55 Busboy

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 09:55 AM

Just hanging out and found this, FWIW.
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#56 John Talbott

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 02:04 PM

Charles et al;
Great topic.
Altho' in my "normal" life I lived 50 miles away, I never heard the word "half smoke" - that sounds like something both I and my French pals have never had. I think the mission is accomplished. Thanks.
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#57 monavano

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 02:28 PM

John, are you aiming to go for lunch or dinner?. How about weekend or weekday? Are you restricted to the District, or are you considering VA, just outside of DC?

Edited by monavano, 15 March 2008 - 02:28 PM.


#58 DTBarton

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Posted 16 March 2008 - 08:03 AM

As far as procuring half smokes, I've gotten good ones at the Laurel Meat Market on old Main street. I think the brand is Kuntzler, if you buy a case they come in a yellow box with Pennsylvania Dutch style hex signs on it, made in Lancaster PA or thereabouts.

Available in hot or mild!

#59 John Talbott

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Posted 17 March 2008 - 02:48 PM

John, are you aiming to go for lunch or dinner?. How about weekend or weekday? Are you restricted to the District, or are you considering VA, just outside of DC?

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Ah, no, not VA (I have to go there once a month so that's a different issue/topic).
For my French pals in DC, we normally eat lunch, sampling the "local chow" somewhere accessible to the Convention Center (Recall, here inside Paris everything is reachable in less than 40 minutes on our Metro.)
For me and Colette, we eat light, ethnic at night.
For my French colleagues it'll be a weekday lunch; for my charming wife it'll involve lunch and dinner, weekdays and weekends.
I think that's a confusing answer but all suggestions are gratefully received.
John
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#60 hjshorter

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Posted 18 March 2008 - 03:02 AM

I think Vidalia has been doing a good job capturing that mix, in an upscale sort of way (I had truffle on macaroni and cheese last time I was there).

I would agree with Busboy on the cuisine, and note that the chef at Vidalia buys from local producers whenever possible.
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