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Mario Batali: Local is the New Luxury

Washington DC Dining DC
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DC was treated to a visit by Mario Batali Sunday. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to open a restaurant (yet!), but he did have some strong words about how DC food has caught up to New York. Mario (right) was in town celebrating his new cookbook America Farm to Table with co-author Jim Webster of the Washington Post (center). They participated in a moderated Q & A session over lunch at Zaytinya along with New Morning Farm's Jim Crawford (left). The biggest takeaway? “Luxury isn’t about expensive food—it’s about using ingredients that can’t be found anywhere else,” he tells us. “Local is the gold standard.”

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Mario also prefers food that has a story behind it, like his recipe for Ajo Blanco. The chilled soup is an almond-based cousin of Spanish gazpacho. Its origin is the North African influence in the south of Spain. “When you taste a dish that has history, eating becomes an intellectual experience,” Mario says. At the lunch, the menu was comprised of Zaytinya Chef Michael Costa’s greatest hits combined with a few bites from Mario like his Swiss chard spanakopita (pictured). The $95 meal included a signed copy of the cookbook and perhaps a new perspective on eating local.