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Dining Bisnow (DC)

School Your Friends in Food

RMA Limo's new app, version 2.808: for pickups and drop-offs, you can now enter names of places as well as street addresses; airport selection list is now sorted by proximity to your current location. Download here

Diners today want to know more about what's on their plate and in their glass, so we went to food school this week. Read up, and then drop some knowledge on your friends during your next night out.

Craft Cocktails with Trevor Frye

Jack Rose Dining Saloon

Craft cocktails are getting as complex as a Saturday New York Times crossword puzzle, so we brought in an expert. Trevor Frye is the ringleader of Dram & Grain—the reservations-only cocktail den inside Jack Rose Dining Saloon. We chatted with him from Portland Cocktail Week where he's taking classes to get even craftier.

Q. Why is my bartender slapping around those herbs?
A. “Two botanicals that need to be spanked are mint and basil. When you muddle them, it breaks down their molecular composition and they become bitter. Smacking them brings out brighter flavor.”

Q. Is there a tiny bush in my drink?
A. “No. A ‘shrub' is a mixture of a fruit, vegetable or spice that's combined with vinegar and sugar. Vinegar acts as a preservative. Its purpose is often to displace citrus in a cocktail.”

Q. What the heck is fat-washing?
A. “You can get a lot of cool flavor from animal fat; the most common is probably bacon-washed bourbon. It's an infusion that requires an ice bath afterwards, which allows the fat to congeal and be scraped off, leaving behind only flavor. Done right, it's awesome.”

Toro Toro (Open) DINE
Metro Cook (Nove8-general) DINE

Pasta Shapes with Matt Adler

There are too many Italian pasta shapes to keep track of, so we asked Osteria Morini Chef Matt Adler to walk us through some that he showcases on his Northern Italian menu. “The secret to picking the right pasta is all about the sauce,” he tells us.

  • Caramelle: Remember those caramel cream candies you used to get on Halloween? That's the exact shape of caramele pasta. A pasta sheet is filled and then twisted diagonally. Matt's are filled with pumpkin.
  • Gramigna: While the Italian translation is “little weeds,” this curved pasta looks like music notes.
  • Bucatini: A thick, hollow spaghetti ideal for soaking up sauce. Just remember it has a “tini” hole in the middle.
  • Cavatelli: This pasta is in the gnocchi family, but it's rolled away from you, creating a divot perfect for Matt's duck ragu to sneak into.
  • Cappelletti: A crown-shaped cousin of the tortellini, cappelletti translates to “little hats,” making it easy to remember. Matt's are stuffed with truffled ricotta.
  • Casarecce: A friend of gemelli, this short twisted pasta is begging for pesto because of all its cracks and crevices.
  • Creste di galli: Get a good hard look at a rooster, because “creste di galli” translates to cockscomb. The jagged pasta is meant for a finely minced seafood ragu.
American Summits (B5G1F) DINE
Malmaison (Brunch2) DINE

Beyond Sushi with Kaz Okochi

Kaz Okochi's flagship restaurant may have sushi in its name, but we sat down with the Nagoya, Japan native to talk Japanese food beyond maki and nigiri. “Japanese is fusion food at its best,” he tells us. “We borrow from other cultures and put our spin on it. At the same time, the food is so unique you won't find it anywhere else.” One of his favorite foods, tonkatsu, is a perfect example. The deep fried pork cutlet is akin to Italian Milanese. Kaz also enjoys Japanese noodles including ramen, udon and soba, comfort food like curry rice, and street food snacks like okonomiyaki, a fish pancake of sorts. He'll serve up some of these dishes at Dinner Lab on Nov 20.

Next Level Charcuterie with Nathan Anda

Charcuterie was one of the biggest trends in 2014, as restaurants expanded their offerings and chefs got exceedingly creative. Take Nathan Anda, for example. The Partisan chef is the guy you're looking for if you want to graduate from pepperoni and prosciutto. We asked him to explain some of his current offerings from tame to just a little crazy. “My thing with charcuterie is that you have to have an open mind, and don't be afraid to ask questions,” he tells us. We snapped him with his partner in crime, Chef Ed Witt.

Greg Powers
  • Coppa: Cured neck meat that's perfectly marbled with fat and rubbed with cayenne pepper, fennel and black pepper.
  • Mortadella: An emulsified offering that looks and tastes like Bologna. But don't balk at Bologna. “Open yourself up to trying it again, it's not Oscar Mayer.” His foie gras black truffle Bologna is definitely NOT school lunch material.
  • Lardo: “We cure pure unadulterated fat with salt, pepper and herbs in containers that we stack like Tetris blocks and leave for 12 months.” Protecting lardo in tinfoil keeps it ivory white. Once ready, he wraps a paper-thin slice around bread and fries it in olive oil.
  • Rillette: A fatty, smooth concoction made from braising meat in its own fat. The fat is separated out and later emulsified back in, creating the unmistakably unique texture. Nathan says duck, geese and pork are perfect candidates.  
  • Heartechino: You've never seen this before because Nathan invented it. It's a play on an Italian cured meat called Cotechino that utilizes pork shoulder and crispy skin. Nathan ups the ante by swapping the shoulder for pig heart. He seasons it with baking spices and Thai chilies for a little heat.
Tarara (Black) DINE

Italian Wine Matchmaking with Casper Rice

The Scene: You walk into a special Italian restaurant and panic when the somm saunters by because all you know is Brunello. Enter Casper Rice, Fiola's sommelier and beverage director (whom they scooped in June from the Inn at Little Washington). We asked him to match common red wine styles with Italian varietals, so you don't have to.

If you like Pinot Noir: Head to the Piedmont region. "It's Italy's answer to Burgundy." The Nebbiolo grape is responsible for both Barbaresco, a softer style, and Barolo, a rustic, bolder example. They're referred to as "queen" and "king."

If you like California Cabernet: Ask about a Super Tuscan. They're powerful in a New World way. Casper's favorite is a Mazzei Philip Cabernet from Maremma, which honors Thomas Jefferson's good friend Philip Mazzei who traveled from Italy to Virginia in 1773.

If you like Syrah/Shiraz: Try an Aglianico. The grape is gamey, rich and spicy with notes of pepper and leather. Casper has three on the Fiola wine list.

If you like Spanish Rioja: The Cannonau grape from Sardinia is a good match because it's a densely flavored, aromatic wine. It's the Italian version of Grenache.

If you just like big, bold wine: An Amarone will drink unique. It's produced in the Veneto region using dried grapes that produce rich chocolate and raisin notes.

930 Club (Oct24) DINE

Dumpling Detective with Azamat Zhanizakov

Mari Vanna, DC's adorably appointed little slice of Russia, serves several different kinds of Slavic parcels. We grabbed some time with Executive Chef Azamat Zhanizakov so he could walk us through three handmade varieties. With temperatures dipping—the timing couldn't be better.

  •     Pelmeni: Small, round boiled dumplings that actually come from Siberia, where it's possible to make a big batch and store them in nature's freezer—40 degree below zero outdoor temps. They're stuffed with pork and beef, and served with sour cream (pictured).
  •     Vareniki: Larger, half-circle boiled dumplings that Russia and the Ukraine fight over when it comes to origin (probably also who does them best). Unlike pelmeni, they can be savory or sweet. Mari Vanna serves potato & cabbage vareniki in addition to sour cherry. The cabbage variety is part of Azmat's new fall menu.
  •     Pirozhki: A baked, buttery pastry that's been filled. Azamat makes a different shape for each of his four fillings to keep them straight. Right now there's beef, egg & scallion, cabbage, and liver & onions. They're best enjoyed with hot black tea.
Cardinal (HalfYard) DINE
Bisnow Hypnotic HALF

Email Dining Editor Laura Hayes
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