There are certainly some tips you can take home that will improve your cooking, but it is important to note that technique will not replicate that amazing meal you had last week. Nor will the exact recipe, or even the top of the line commercial equipment in your kitchen (though that really helps).
The fact is that your meal was made wonderful by much more than the food. Eating out is as contextual as any experience — it is all about the moment. It was the setting, your mood, your companion and many other things that worked together in concert with the food to make the meal special. That is why we go out, and it can’t be copied at home. Home is for different moments.
Okay, having got that out of the way, let me also throw this one out to you: I did not go to culinary school, and thus I am not a trained chef. I have spent plenty of time ‘behind the line’ in professional kitchens, but I am not a pro. I know how to cook, however, and I know what to look for in food. I also ran these ideas by the real pros that I work with for their approval before I submitted them. Given those disclaimers, take this advice for what you think it is worth.
These are some simple tips and strategies that should help your cooking at home. The most important tip I have is that the more you can approach cooking without anxiety or fear, the better your food will taste. Many people see recipes as intimidating and hosting as nerve-racking. I can guarantee you it comes out in your food. The more fun you have and the more relaxed you are, the more sumptuous your meal will be. Many chefs and cooks chose this line of work because it is their passion. It isn’t ridiculous to suggest that their passion as much as their expertise is what makes their food taste so good.
I cannot walk by the range in my kitchen when my wife is cooking without dialing up the burner. Whatever it is set at, it should always be higher. She used to put in the oil and the vegetables in the cold pan and then turn on the burner. Now she heats the pan, adds the oil and waits until it is hot. I hear it sizzle and pop, and I know dinner will be good.
Many home cooks are too tentative with temperature. Life in a restaurant is always hot; 350 is a minimum, 500 is lots of fun. Of course, there is simmering, slow cooking and baking, but most of your food benefited from a red hot skillet, grill or pot. Heat makes flavor — not only do you get that wonderful texture from a charred steak, but the marking also enhances the flavor tremendously.
Smoke in your kitchen is a good thing. Next time you ‘cook’ a chicken breast, try ‘searing’ it first: Turn the burner up and wait for the oil to almost start smoking. Drop in the chicken and listen to that sound. You’ll never go back. Just turn on the fan or open a window.
If so, Chick-fil-A has just the event for you.
Chick-fil-A’s Ballston mall and Crystal City locations, along with the chain’s 49 other D.C. area restaurants, are hosting a “Date Knight” for mothers and sons from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Monday, May 6.
“During this special medieval-themed evening, moms and their sons are encouraged to spend some time together while they enjoy dinner, great conversation and several special activities,” the company said in a press release. “Every Mother-Son pair will also receive a place mat with fun questions and topics to get the conversation started, and a take-home booklet that provides ideas for future dates and questions that both moms and their sons can ask each other.”
The “special activities” are free, but diners still have to pay for the food.
“One of Chick-fil-A’s goals is to promote community connections and enrich the lives of everyone we come in contact with,” Erik Amick, a Chick-fil-A franchise operator, said in a statement. “We understand the importance of mother-son relationships and want to encourage area moms to come to Chick-fil-A, enjoy their son’s company over a meal and have fun!”
Interested customers can make “Date Knight” reservations online. Currently, the Ballston Chick-fil-A has 53 reservations available, while Crystal City has 49 reservations remaining.
(Updated at 1:20 p.m.) Vice President Joe Biden stopped by Liberty Tavern (3195 Wilson Blvd) in Clarendon this morning to film a segment for a TV news show.
Biden was one of the guests on the MSNBC show Morning Joe, which filmed a roundtable discussion on gun reform at the restaurant.
It’s not the first VIP visit for the Clarendon restaurant. President Obama dined at Liberty Tavern on October 27, 2011. Biden, for his part, is no strangers to popular Arlington eateries. He had lunch at Metro 29 Diner on Dec. 7, 2012.
Biden and his security detail arrived at Liberty Tavern around 11:00 a.m., Clarendon Patch reported via Twitter. The Vice President left at 12:15 p.m., flashing a big smile and a thumbs up to a crowd that had gathered across the street. Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski stood outside O’Sullivan’s, across from Liberty Tavern, to see Biden’s departure.
Liberty Tavern co-owner Mark Fedorchak said Biden and the other guests were served pastries and coffee from Northside Social, which he and his brother Stephen also own.
Fedorchak said Biden “was very conversational” and talked with him about their mutual northeastern Pennsylvania roots. As it turns out, Biden used to enjoy going to the Scranton-area Circle Drive-In Theatre, which is owned by the Fedorchaks’ uncle.
That wasn’t the only incidental connection between Biden and Liberty Tavern’s ownership group. Restaurant co-owner and local developer Brian Normile got a chance to apologize to Biden for accidentally driving a ball into his golf foursome during a recent trip to Kiawah Island, South Carolina.
The Vice President apparently didn’t mind. According to Fedorchak, Biden wrote a gracious note on a menu before leaving the restaurant.
“Next time lunch, thanks for the hospitality,” it said.
Photos by ARLnow.com except as noted
(Updated at 10:35 a.m.) A 24-year-old Alexandria man shot himself outside Union Jack’s (671 N. Glebe Road) in Ballston last night.
The shooting happened around 1:00 a.m. According to police, the man was having “domestic dispute” with his girlfriend inside the restaurant. He then walked outside, took out a gun, fired several shots in the air, and then shot himself in the head, said Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
About 30 people witnessed the shooting, Sternbeck said. At least one bystander attempted CPR.
The man was rushed to the hospital and is currently alive and on life support, in very critical condition. He was not pronounced dead, as earlier reported.
This was at least the second time this year that a major police incident happened at the restaurant. Union Jack’s was the scene of a brawl that resulted in two arrests in February.
Photos courtesy Misty Alvarez
Arlington’s Public Health Division has reversed course and will now allow restaurants to have “dog friendly” outdoor dining areas. As recently as November, the health department was reminding restaurants that no pets — except for service animals — were allowed in any dining area, inside or outside.
Now, restaurants can apply for a variance that would allow dogs in outdoor dining areas.
“Restaurants that wish to allow dogs in their outdoor dining areas now have an administrative process they can initiate to request a code variance,” Arlington’s Public Health Director, Reuben Varghese, said in a statement. “To receive a variance, a restaurant will have to comply with a set of safeguards designed to minimize risks to the dining public.”
“The change is in response to community requests,” the health department said in a press release. “With proper safeguards, restaurants can protect their customers’ health and safety in the presence of dogs.”
“Safeguards include requiring dogs to be leashed and not allowing them on seats and tables, restricting food and drink preparation from the outside dining area, and requiring signs to inform diners they are in a ‘Dog Friendly Area,’” said the press release. “Compliance would be evaluated as part of the routine restaurant inspection process.”
Photo via Arlington County
I enter on all sides of the conversation here: I’m an operator who deals with families all the time, I’m a Dad who loves to eat out with my daughter, and I’m a diner who often likes eating out with just grown-ups. A lot of you fall into the latter two categories, so you can surely appreciate how nuanced the topic is.
Here is the deal: some kids are angels eating out, some kids have a hard time in restaurants, and sometimes it’s the same kid on different days. Some parents are like Baby Whisperers with their kids, some parents struggle more, and sometimes it’s the same parents. Also, we could all probably stand to take a deep breath and relax just a little bit.
It’s just that simple. And it’s just that hard.
As an operator, I love kids. Their parents spend money, after all, and there are a ton of advantages to marketing to families. In Arlington, families represent a very lucrative demographic; I’d be crazy to ignore them. Also, as stated above, today’s family at brunch could turn into next week’s anniversary dinner or next month’s mom’s night out in the bar. We have always prided ourselves in welcoming kids into Eventide and Spider Kelly’s. We have families ourselves.
And let me be very clear to point out that the responsibility for ensuring everyone has a good time is on us. It’s our job to make all our guests happy, and that’s what we try to do.
But we could all use a few ground rules.
When I became a parent, I realized that the restaurant business had actually prepared me well. For work, I had to learn to be ready for anything at anytime. I had to learn to keep calm and trust my preparation. Parenting was the same except infinitely more wild and unpredictable. The best part about kids is you never know what will happen next, but that can make plans and events and dinners maddening. A sense of humor helps a lot, but it won’t always save the meal.
Wiinky’s (3902 Wilson Blvd) will serve its last burgers on Sunday, March 31, according to a sign in the window. Restaurant employees said they were told that Wiinky’s and several other small businesses on the block are closing to make way for a new pet store, possibly a Petco location.
“Unfortunately, the ownership of our building has changed hands and the new landlord has opted not to renew our lease in favor of a large corporation that will pay a much higher price for the space,” the sign said. “We appreciate the support you gave given us the last few years… In the mean time we will be looking for a new location in the Arlington area so don’t be surprised to see a new and improved Wiinkys in the future.”
The burger and hot dog joint opened in April 2011. Despite skepticism about its young owner and its earnest, low-frills food offerings, the restaurant has remained in business and has even attracted a 4/5 star review average on Yelp. A manager tells us business has picked up in the last year and is now “really good,” especially at lunchtime and during late night hours (when it also offers a delivery service).
We’re told that the new Wiinky’s, should it reopen elsewhere, may apply for a permit to serve beer and wine.
“We’re going to keep our ears and eyes open, looking for a place in Arlington,” said owner Ryan Shandel. ”If we find a place that’s affordable and makes sense, then we’ll make a move.”
Shandel said the closure is “a sad and sudden thing to happen,” but added that he’s grateful for the support of the community and for the opportunity to learn while on the job. He said he hopes customers will stop by one last time before the restaurant closes on Sunday.
So far, Petco hasn’t responded to a request for comment.
Hat tip to @PeoplesEyebrow. Photo via Google Maps.
From now until the end of the festival, five participating Arlington restaurants will “serve creative spring and Festival-inspired entrées, appetizers, desserts, cocktails, or multi-course menus.” Last year, no Arlington restaurants participated.
The special offerings are part of the festival’s Cherry Picks program, now in its 11th year.
The participating restaurants are:
- American Tap Room Clarendon (3101 Wilson Blvd)
- Amuse at Le Meridien (1121 19th Street N)
- Epic Smokehouse (1330 S Fair St)
- Morton’s The Steakhouse – Arlington (1750 Crystal Drive)
- Sushi Rock (1900 Clarendon Blvd)
Photo via National Cherry Blossom Festival
The new owners of Velocity 5 (2300 Clarendon Blvd) in Courthouse say they’re planning to convert the 200-seat restaurant and bar into “Social Haus,” which they describe as “a traditional beer garden with a modern twist.” They’re hoping to renovate the restaurant soon — a project expected to take several weeks — and reopen it by the end of May.
According to Matt Rofougaran, one of six partners who purchased the Courthouse location of Velocity 5 last month, Social Haus will feature a selection of 100 beers, including 35 on tap. The beers — which will range from local brews, German and Belgian imports and standards like Corona — will be available in bottles or, for beers on tap, in steins and boots ranging from half a liter to a full two liters.
While beer will be the big draw, Social Haus will also offer local and German wines. Specialty cocktails will be on the menu, and Rofougaran said the partners are currently working to secure a machine that will serve frozen Red Bull and vodka cocktails.
The seating new arrangements will be reminiscent of a traditional German beer hall. The renovations will knock down walls inside the restaurant to make way for two large picnic-style tables — “social seating” as Rofougaran called it — which will comprise about 75 percent of the seating inside Social Haus.
Other planned interior improvements include a doubling of the size of the ladies’ restroom. As for the outdoor patio seating, the partners plan to add heating elements this fall, then plan to create a separate outdoor bar next year.
Rofougaran says the owners, who will continue running the restaurant as “Velocity 5″ until the renovations, are also working to revamp the restaurant’s menu and improve the much-maligned food.
“The food menu is going to completely change,” Rofougaran said. “We’re going to have fresh, organic, healthy options. There’s still going to be good burgers and wings and stuff, but instead of having the regular crap, we’re going to have grass-fed beef with no hormones, no preservatives.”
“We’re thinking of the health-conscious people in Arlington,” he added. “People know what they’re eating these days, they’re not eating crap like they used to.”
In addition to the healthier options, a gluten free menu, a Sunday brunch menu, and the improved bar food, Rofougaran said Social Haus will serve German favorites like bratwurst and schnitzel.
Rofougaran says he and his five partners are all Northern Virginia natives who have experience in the restaurant and bar promotion businesses. They range in age from 28 to 33.
“We know what people like,” he said. “We’ve been going out in Arlington ever since college.”
Rofougaran said he and his partners are hoping to gather community input on the plans for Social Haus. They’ve set up a suggestion box at Velocity 5 and, in an unorthodox move, Rofougaran encouraged any residents who wanted to weigh in the plans to call him on his cell phone: 703-856-5613.
Photos via Facebook
A number of Arlington restaurants were named 2013 RAMMY Award nominees last night.
The annual awards gala is organized by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW). Nominees were announced last night in 16 categories.
While Arlington was shut out in the “fine dining” and “upscale casual” categories, Arlington-based restaurants made up more than half the “Casual Restaurant of the Year” category.
Among the five casual restaurant nominees were Bayou Bakery (1515 N. Courthouse Road), Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza (3017 Clarendon Blvd) and Nando’s Peri-Peri (1301 S. Joyce Street). Bayou was the only purely Arlington restaurant; Pete’s and Nando’s both have other locations outside of Arlington.
Clarendon’s Fuego Cocina y Tequileria (2800 Clarendon Blvd) was nominated in the New Restaurant of the Year category. Meanwhile, chef Scot Harlan of Green Pig Bistro (1025 N. Fillmore Street), another Clarendon restaurant, was nominated as in the Rising Culinary Star of the Year category. Also nominated in the Rising Culinary Star category was Tim Ma, who’s planning to open a new restaurant, “Water & Wall,” in Virginia Square.
The RAMMY Award winners will be announced at a gala event on Sunday, June 23.
“We’ll miss all loyal customers,” the restaurant said. “Thank you so much for the good times.”
Said another social media post: “Restaurant items for sale. Call 202-256-0444. Everything must go!!”
Via Twitter, Extra Virgin said that the restaurant closed because it was not making enough money in sales to pay the rent.
As of December, Extra Virgin owed Arlington County $38,402.12 in unpaid meals taxes. That debt has since been repaid.
“All taxes owed by Extra Virgin have been paid so that their present balance is zero,” Arlington County Treaurer Frank O’Leary told ARLnow.com.
Photo via Facebook
The establishment, which is located in a strip mall at the corner of Columbia Pike and Glebe Road, was seeking a renewal of its entertainment permit, to allow it to continue to host karaoke nights. Neighboring civic associations, the police department and Virginia ABC all opposed the renewal due to concerns about crime.
In a report to the Board, county staff said Sports House Grill has “had numerous [county] reviews and a consistently high number of police calls.”
“In the last year alone, there were 15 police calls for service for incidents (most resulting in arrests) related to the establishment,” staff wrote. “The consistently high numbers of calls for service at this establishment, along with concerns about over-serving of patrons, litter, various inappropriate activity in the parking lot and surrounding neighborhood, and other issues have adversely affected the health and safety of surrounding businesses and communities by, among other things creating noise and reducing the residential character of the area.”
Neighbors told the Board that Sports House Grill owner Hugo Flores had made “zero effort” to respond to their concerns over the past few months. Concerns cited by neighbors include violence in the parking lot, vandalism and “drug sales.”
The business owner and his attorney told the Board that Sports House Grill has private security inside the restaurant, has had no problems with noise or health code violations, and has just appointed a new community liaison. The liaison appointment, however, seemed to be viewed by the Board and neighbors as too little, too late.
In the end, the Board voted unanimously to deny the live entertainment permit renewal.
“The County goes to great efforts to allow businesses to do this sort of thing,” said County Board member Chris Zimmerman, who lives in nearby Douglas Park, citing the relatively long list of county reviews of the business in the 7 years it has been owned by Flores. Zimmerman said the Board’s vote to deny the permit was “highly unusual.”
Sports House Grill is the second Columbia Pike restaurant with a primarily Hispanic clientele to face questions about its karaoke nights in the past year. In November, the Board deferred a live entertainment permit request for Restaurante El Salvador (4805 Columbia Pike) over crime concerns.
In a separate agenda item, the County Board voted to allow a live entertainment and dancing permit for another Columbia Pike restaurant with a history of crime and noise problems.
After numerous deferrals, the Board voted unanimously on Saturday to grant Pines of Italy (3111 Columbia Pike) a live entertainment permit. The vote had the blessing of the president of the Arlington Heights Civic Association, a major reversal of the association’s outspoken opposition to the permit last year.
At the request of the restaurant’s owner, who said a county staff recommendation to require a midnight closing time would scuttle its nightclub-oriented business plan, the Board also voted to allow Pines of Italy to stay open until 2:00 a.m., on the condition of quarterly staff reviews and a County Board review in one year.
The Board was told that the owner had conducted sufficient neighborhood outreach and had agreed to various measures to address problems that had previously plagued the location, which borders a residential neighborhood and which has seen a succession of owners over the past few years.
BMW in Fatal Crash Was Symbol of Father’s Success — The 2008 BMW M5 that 22-year-old Sami Ullah was driving the night of the crash in Rosslyn that killed him was a gift from his father, who had emigrated from Pakistan and worked as a dishwasher before eventually amassing a fortune from real estate investment. Police said Ullah was driving 90 miles per hour over the Key Bridge before the crash, something his family can’t quite comprehend. “He’d only drive fast on straightaways,” Ullah’s 27-year-old brother said. [Washington Post]
Board Reaffirms Plan for Long Bridge Park — The Arlington County Board reaffirmed its plan for Long Bridge Park, near Crystal City, at its meeting on Saturday. The plan includes the new Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health & Fitness Facility, the construction of which is expected to begin late this year. “Our actions today move us closer to realizing the dream of transforming a former brown field into one of the region’s most dynamic parks, recreation and athletic facilities in one of its most beautiful natural settings,” said County Board Chairman Walter Tejada. [Arlington County]
Win for Wakefield ‘It’s Academic’ Team – Wakefield High School’s “It’s Academic” team picked up and will advance to a playoff match. The televised academic competition aired this past Saturday, March 16. [Sun Gazette]
Front Page Under New Management – The Front Page restaurant in Ballston is under new management. “We have been working hard to get the FPA back to the glory it’s longstanding tradition deserves,” the restaurant said on Facebook. “Please don’t judge us on past performance. Except for the loyal and exceptional bar and service staff all management is new.” [Facebook]
County: We’re Not Stopping Harris Teeter — Arlington County officials acknowledged on Saturday that they’ve been in private settlement talks with Harris Teeter over the incident that resulted in raw sewage flooding the S. Glebe Road store last year, forcing it to close indefinitely. Responding to a letters from residents, the county says they’re not preventing the still-closed store from reopening and are willing to help expedite the regulatory process, if Harris Teeter decides to reopen. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by J.D. Moore
Cafe Assorti, at 1800 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, will be closing its doors on Sunday.
The restaurant served Russian, Eastern European and Kazakh cuisine, as well as pastries, beer and wine. It was open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
It’s unclear why Cafe Assorti is closing. A restaurant employee told us that the owners are looking for a new location in Rockville, Md. and hoping to reopen there in August.
Photo via Facebook
Cucina Vivace, at 509 23rd Street S. in Crystal City, has closed.
The restaurant closed last month, to the disappointment of regular customers. Chef/owner Gordon Vivace suggested that the restaurant row on 23rd Street was no longer drawing in the customers he needed in order to stay open.
“That strip is not in good shape and is simply no longer a location where an upscale restaurant can survive,” Vivace told ARLnow.com. “I was presented with an opportunity to leave on short notice, and chose to take it.”
Vivace said he does not plan to reopen.
“I’m going to stick to catering and personal chef services where my food can be my food without compromise to the price people are willing to pay to walk in the door,” he said.