Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bits & Morsels visits D.C.

Georgetown Cupcakes at Nathans in Georgetown.

Last week I took a trip to Washington D.C. to see Chuck Todd at the Q&A café. The Q&A Café takes place at Nathans in Georgetown and is run by Washington Social Diarist Carol Joynt. It’s a talk show format (that’s taped and later broadcast on her website) in the restaurant over a light lunch. As a foodie and a political news junkie there is no better way to spend the day. A lot of Carol's interviews are political and media-oriented. Chuck Todd a.k.a Chucky T. is the NBC News’ political director.

This campaign season he seems to be everywhere. Still, he is a refreshing face because he is fair and balanced (not the Fox News version) and not the typical talking head. He has an ability to make complex concepts accessible (such as the whole issue with the Electoral College) to everyone and he has a sense of humor. Carol really has a gift of making her interviewees feel right at home.
Chuck Todd and Carol Joynt at the Q & A Café.
Carol got Chucky T. to talk about everything from the impact of Tim Russert’s death, how he got started in the business, to behind the scenes at NBC. The Q&A Café spells value; for $35.00 you are privy to fascinating conversation that you really wouldn’t hear anywhere else and a lunch of addictive homemade potato chips, salmon with vegetables, and a Georgetown Cupcake. The Q&A café is worth coming to town for — there is nothing quite like it in New York.

Nathans, 3150 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007, (202) 338.2000
Georgetown Cupcake
, 1209 Potomac Street, NW, (202) 333.8448
Salmon with vegetables. A political Cupcake at Nathans.
After lunch at the Q&A Café I headed over to the recently opened Newseum. The Newseum is a museum unlike any other I have seen. It is devoted to people and objects that make, break, and create the news. The Newseum really hit home because so many of the exhibits revolved around events that have happened in my lifetime. Actually, all of the exhibits were fascinating especially the fresh exhibit on the relationship between the FBI and the press.
The view from the Newseum.
This included items like the Unabomber’s cabin. And yes, the whole cabin was actually part of the exhibit. The 9/11 exhibit showcases all of the front pages from hundreds of newspapers on September 12, 2001. The exhibit also highlighted the work of photojournalist Bill Biggart who was killed while covering the attacks on the World Trade Center. His pictures from the event survived and you can trace his steps through the time stamps on his photographs. The Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.Washington, DC 20001.

After the Newseum I went to Ben’s Chili Bowl for a snack of veggie chili with cheese wiz sand raw onions. It’s a diner that focuses on delicious chili, both with meat and without. They are also known for their big hearty breakfasts. They have vegetarian versions of almost everything on the menu and they sell these vegetarian options almost as much as the carniverous versions.
Ben's Chili Bowl.
You can’t come to D.C. without visiting Ben’s. It's been open since 1958 and it’s a landmark. Their prices are reasonable and the décor is almost unchanged from when they opened. They have a loyal clientele and Bill Cosby once hosted a press conference from Ben’s. Ben’s Chili Bowl, 1213 U Street, NW Washington D.C. 20009, (202) 667- 0909.
Chili Fries. Vegetarian chili with cheese and onions.
So much of this election has been about which candidate gets it. That same principle of getting it and being in touch with reality applies to restaurants too. I was treated to two dinners in D.C. and both restaurants get it.

On Tuesday night, I had a late night dinner at Eric Ripert’s Westend Bistro. It’s located in the Ritz Carlton at 1190 22nd Street, NW. The cuisine is billed as hearty American with a refined French touch.

I started off my meal with a fried poached duck egg over a light string bean salad, which was was much lighter than I thought it would be. It was crispy on the outside and simply oozingly delicious on the inside. Eric Ripert, who is also the chef of Le Bernardin in New York, is known for his fish and seafood dishes, and one of the standout dishes at the Westend Bistro is the fish burger. The burger was fairly mild (translation: not fishy at all) and it paired nicely with the fennel and roasted tomatoes affixed to a toasted bun. [West End Bistro]
Fried poached duck egg. The fish burger with fennel and oven roasted tomatoes.
The fish burger de-bunned. Fried poached duck egg.
Chefs Robert Berry and Rick King Jr. Peach cobbler.
On Wednesday night we had dinner at Central. Located in the very central location of 1001 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Central received the 2008 James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant. Now of all the restaurants I have dined at (trust me it's a long list), they definitely get it. The whole meal, from the hot gougeres to the homemade candy bars (like a Kit Kat but far superior), was tight and seamless. We sat near the open kitchen and saw Chef Cedric Maupiller oversee every single dish that left his domain. If anything was not up to his standards, it did not go out.

The service at the restaurant was on target and you didn’t even have to look for a waiter. Central is a casual restaurant with an extensive and affordable menu of American and Bistro dishes — onion soup, tuna burgers, fried chicken, that sort of thing. Central is Chef Michel Richard’s restaurant and he is known for his playful and creative dishes. He has a version of “faux gras” instead of foie gras, in which he uses chicken livers. [Central]
Gougères. Check out Michel Richard on the wall.
Clockwise from top left: Cedric Maupillier, Executive Chef; French onion soup; Ahi tuna burger; Mac and cheese; French onion soup and brussels sprouts.
Clockwise from top left: Lamb shank with creamy corn polenta; The entrance to Central; Michel's chocolate bar.
This is the best time of year to be in the D.C. Besides the crisp yet warm near-fall weather, it’s election season — the busiest and most fun of seasons! Everywhere you look people are dishing out their own expert political opinions. Even bakeries like Furin’s of Georgetown are getting into it by offering candidate cookies. [Furin's]

Until we eat again,
Jordana Z.
Candidate cookies from Furin's bakery.

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