20 Culinary Questions with Washington, D.C., Food Writer Nevin Martell

IMG_8718Nevin Martell may be a New York native, but he’s made himself very much at home in Washington, D.C., over the last decade, and he definitely knows how to dine like a local. A freelance food and travel writer, Martell is the author of the recently published travelogue-memoir Freak Show Without a Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. He is a sucker for foie gras and truffles and has been an OpenTable member since 2007 — as well as a super-adventurous eater since birth. He says, “Traveling the world, I’ve gotten stoned on kava in Fiji, eaten tree frogs in the Dominican Republic, and noshed on grasshoppers in Mexico. In the spirit of adventure, I’m always willing to try anything. I’ve always wanted to eat on Easter Island, so if anyone is looking for a culinary story on the most remote point in the world, let me know!” You can follow his gourmet exploits at NevinMartell.com and on Twitter @nevinmartell

1. What are some of the best qualities of the Washington, D.C., dining scene? Over the last several years, D.C.’s restaurant scene has started growing at an explosive rate. New eateries are popping up every day and everywhere. Despite the fierce competition, the dining community remains tightknit, supportive, and highly collaborative. That goes for the food writers in town as well.

2. Any restaurants at which you’re something of a regular? It’s hard to become a regular when you’re always trying new restaurants and eating out on assignment. However, I have become a common sight at G by Mike Isabella, La Mano Coffee Bar, and Republic.

3. If I come to D.C., where must I dine? Rose’s Luxury, Rasika, Little Serow, Toki Underground, and Blue Duck Tavern. A sandwich at Woodward Takeout Food or Stachowski’s is highly recommended. If you’re willing to drive, The Inn at Little Washington, Bryan Voltaggio’s VOLT, and The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm are all worth the trip.

4. Last best restaurant you dined at? The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm. Tarver King is equal parts chef and artist, so his food is as beautiful and creatively constructed as it is delicious.

 5. Restaurants you’d most like to try but have yet to — anywhere? In reality, this wishful list is hundreds of restaurants long. However, here are some highlights: The French Laundry, Alex Atala’s D.O.M. in Sao Paolo, Sushi Mizutani in Tokyo, L’Arpège in Paris, Momofuku Ko in NYC, and Le Pigeon in Portland, Oregon.

6. Favorite city for dining outside your own? New York City. Also, Clinton, New York, because that’s where my mother lives and I have the softest spot in my heart for her cooking.

7. Destination dining cities you’d love to visit? Tokyo, Casablanca, and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

8. What’s your overall favorite type of cuisine? This is the Sophie’s Choice of questions for a food writer! I can’t possibly pick a single cuisine.

9.  Small shared plates, tasting menu, or app/entrée dessert? I love to simply let the server know my preferences and let the chef go to town.

10. Dish you can’t resist ordering when you see it on a menu? Sticky toffee pudding.

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September Restaurant Weeks: Where to Save on Dining During the Last Days of Summer

omaha rwWe’re sad that summer is waning, but don’t despair — there are still many ways to save on dining out in cities across the U.S.

* Arizona Restaurant Week aims to please with $30-$44 three-course dinners, September 19-28. Book now.

* Brandywine Valley Restaurant Week is serving two-course $15 lunches and three-course $35 dinners, September 8-12. Book now.

 * Center City District Restaurant Week in Philadelphia showcases $20 lunches and $35 dinners, September 7-19. Book now.

* Charleston Restaurant Week offers specially priced three-course dinners, September 3-14. Book now.

* Cobb County Restaurant Week in Atlanta features three-course $15, $25, and $35 lunches and dinners, September 13-20. Book now.

Flavor Palm Beach has arrived in Florida with $20 lunches and $30 and $35 dinners through September 30. Book now.

Main Line Restaurant Week in Philadelphia has multi-course $10-$20 lunches and $30-$50 dinners, September 22-28. Book now.

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New York Restaurants: Sign up Today to Support ‘Dine Out for Heroes’ on November 5th

Dine Out for HeroesNew York City restaurants are invited to stand with legendary restaurateurs Daniel Boulud, Andrew Carmellini, Jeffrey Lefcourt, Drew Nieporent, Simon Oren, Eric Ripert, and Jeff Zalaznick as they join forces to partner with the Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF) to launch the first annual Dine Out for Heroes, a one-day-only event on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. Each participating restaurant will donate $1 per cover served to the BWF to help in the organization’s efforts to tackle the serious issues of long-term rehabilitation, care, and support of our injured veterans.

It is anticipated that hundreds of New York–area restaurants will join the Dine Out for Heroes initiative. By pledging to donate $1 per cover, participating restaurants will be part of an industry-wide movement to support the injured and their families as they integrate back into society. In addition, participating restaurants will encourage diners to donate to the BWF by visiting the organization’s website — at bobwoodrufffoundation.org.

“We are looking to the restaurant industry to help support the brave men and women who raised their hands to go when our country asked. From rehabilitation and recovery to education, employment, and quality of life — these programs are essential, and as participating members, our commitment to ‘Dine. Donate. Honor. Heal.’ will be critical,” said Penny Glazier, of The Glazier Group of restaurants.

Restaurants that are already on board include Jane, Le Bernardin, Michael Jordan’s The Steak House, and The Russian Tea Room, among others. Please sign up today to support Dine Out for Heroes on November 5, 2014.

Child-Friendly Dining: 15 Ways Restaurants Are Welcoming Young Kids to the Table

sassafraz
Sassafraz may be kid friendly, but they’re certainly not kidding around when it comes to their cuisine.

The topic of babies and children in restaurants is a highly divisive one. Whenever we raise the issue on social media, the debate is heated, scorchingly so — and split down the middle. Many folks don’t think infants, toddlers, or young kids, well-behaved or not, belong in restaurants at all, while other diners are raising enthusiastic eaters by introducing them to the joys of fine dining at a very young age. Cry babies aside, a meal out at a restaurant can provide a few hours of respite to harried parents and help instill good table manners in little ones. Countless restaurants have taken note and are upping the ante on hospitality for parties that include young (and presumably well-behaved) children. From happily stashing strollers and providing slings to serving up creative cuisine for the Crayola set, here’s how 15 establishments have helped provide stellar dining experiences for hungry families, according to recent OpenTable restaurant reviews.

Cap City Fine Diner & Bar, Columbus, Ohio: “We have a 4-month old baby, and brunch at Cap City was a breeze. They had a sling available, and the background noise kept the little one content.”

Cedar Restaurant, Washington, D.C.: “I reserved a table for six, hoping they’d be okay that one guest was a baby. We were skeptical at first because they don’t have an elevator, but as soon as we got the baby and his necessary gear down to the restaurant, they were nothing but helpful. They stowed his stroller, brought a high chair (even though we said we could just put his car seat on a regular chair), and were even interested to know about the baby himself. [When leaving], they even let us use the service elevator they have.”

Clay Pit, Austin, Texas: “The best authentic Indian food in Austin, for sure. We went for an early dinner with our 10-month old and our server was so pleasant to him. Love a place that makes us feel welcome with a rambunctious kiddo!”

Dish on Market, Louisville, Kentucky: “I went to Dish with my 3-week old, son and the staff was amazingly kind. They sat us where there was room for my stroller. No one treated me like a pariah for dining with a baby. Both restrooms have large changing areas, too.”

Firestone Restaurant and Bar, Lethbridge, Alberta: “I had written in my reservation notes that we were two adults with two small children plus a baby who needed a high chair, and it was all ready when we arrived. The meals were all delivered in a very timely manner.”

Great Maple, San Diego, California: “My husband and I have been here many times and invited our friends and two kids (6 months and 3 years old) to join us for brunch last Saturday. Great Maple was very accommodating, and we had a great corner table outside with plenty of room for the stroller. Crayons and a paper menu for the little ones to stay entertained. Delicious food. Our waiter was very friendly and accommodating of our somewhat slow-to-get-it-all-together party (Hard to do with two kids and parents eating in shifts while trying to keep a baby from meltdown status!).”

Hank’s Seafood Restaurant, Charleston, South Carolina: “Service was outstanding! We reserved a table early (5:45pm) since we had my 11-month old with us. I was happy to see other babies there, too. The service staff were so accommodating and professional. I didn’t feel judged at all, and the server even offered to get my daughter some water, juice, or crackers…whatever she needed. ”

* Hapa Izakaya, Vancouver, British Columbia: “As soon as I got in the door, the service was top notch! The manager wanted to make sure our baby was safe, and I wanted to make sure she was out of everybody’s way, too! Majority of the female staff loved playing with our baby, as she giggled, laughed, and waved to whoever wanted to say hi.”

Landmarc at the Time Warner Center, New York, New York: “When we got off the elevator and approached the entrance to Landmarc, my daughter commented, ‘See, Dad? They do encourage kids at this restaurant.’ Lined up against the wall were all sorts and sizes of baby strollers. We parked our double wide in the row and went in. The food was outstanding, and the staff was over the top, especially when our 1-year-old granddaughter reached out and pulled a couple of wine glasses off the shelf behind her.”

One Midtown Kitchen, Atlanta, Georgia: “The service was OUTSTANDING! Our server could not have been nicer. Made sure the kids (8, 6, and 6 months) were handled, asked if we wanted their cheese pizza first, and essentially went out of his way to make our entire party feel welcome and respected. He even smiled and talked with the baby. Simply great.”

Park Tavern, San Francisco, California: “Our family (four generations, from 4 months to 93 years old) gathered for a special dinner and we had a wonderful evening! Our server was incredibly attentive, providing a spoon for the baby to teethe on, checking to be sure our food was as ordered and expected and made us feel that our enjoyment was important to her. ”

Pascal and Sabine, Asbury Park, New Jersey: “My wife, 8-month old and I enjoyed a Sunday dinner after a weekend at the shore. Despite the trending bar scene and hip locals, the restaurant staff and patrons were accepting of a couple dining with a baby. The staff from being seated through service were all very friendly and helpful, we never felt rushed nor like we were waiting.”

Roxy Restaurant & Bar, Sacramento, California: “There were three of us for brunch and a baby. The wait staff could not have been more helpful, to meet the baby’s needs . . . high chair, baby spoon, and creamy cheesy grits (which were yummy, by the way).”

Sassafraz, Toronto, Ontario: “Having a 4-month old baby, it is difficult to find places to eat. But the staff here were wonderful and accommodating to our need of stroller space, etc. They even had a little dessert treat to make our dinner memorable.”

* Y.O. Ranch Steakhouse, Dallas, Texas: “We took our 20-month old for an early dinner to celebrate my husband’s birthday. The food was great, but what impressed me more was the preparation for a toddler. The menu was much more extensive than grilled cheese. His shrimp dinner was brought out with the appetizers, preventing him from getting bored or hungry. His food was just as high of quality as ours (We might have even stolen a shrimp!). They even brought him Oreo cookies at the end, while we enjoyed our custard. My husband and I were able to enjoy a nice dinner out along with the toddler.”