On the Menu: Chefs Share Dishes Inspired by Mom

Mothers love us, care for us, and, of course, feed us. Our earliest experiences with food are largely shaped by the caring folks who cooked for and with us as we grew up. Not surprisingly then, many chefs are using their menus to pay homage to the mothers who delighted them with homespun recipes, often using garden-fresh ingredients. In honor of Mother’s Day, chefs share dishes inspired by mom.

Sergio Emilio Monleón, La Marcha, Berkeley, California
Chef Sergio Emilio Monleón was raised California but in a Spanish household and he spent eight years in Madrid. His mother made paella all the time when he was growing up and hers is the inspiration behind the restaurant’s version of Paella Mixta, which features head-on prawns, chicken, chorizo, garlic, sweet peppers, saffron, and rice. Make a reservation at La Marcha.

Dishes Inspired by Mom

Jesse Souza, Six Seven, Seattle, Washington
Executive Chef Jesse Souza says, “Spring in New England was always a time to shake off the long, dark winter and ready for the precious summer months.  My mother was and is partial to vegetables that are vibrant, bright, and bursting with the flavors of spring and early summer. She grew up spending summers in the garden, dousing sun-warmed tomatoes with fresh coarse salt. This flavor profile and garden-to-table ethic continue in Six Seven’s Heirloom Tomato Salad with Buffalo Mozzarella with Arugula Pesto and Sea Salt.” Make a reservation at Six Seven.

Dishes Inspired by Mom

Jennifer Russo, The Market by Jennifer’s, Phoenix, Arizona
Chef Jennifer Russo shares, “Our spring lamb dish with potatoes and peas is an homage to my mother Gwen in so many ways. She has always had a garden and stressed the importance of cooking seasonally to me in my childhood. She’s also a health nut and would approve of my whipped cauliflower as an alternative to potatoes. And, of course, she’s very Irish and lamb is something she’s made for me since I was a kid.” Make a reservation at The Market By Jennifer’s.

Dishes Inspired by Mom

Erik Lowe, Spaghetti Bros., San Francisco, California
With a name like Spaghetti Bros, you might assume spaghetti and meatballs are on the menu, and you’d be right. Sort of. Chef Erik Lowe makes several pasta dishes including Radiatori with Smoky Pork Sugo and Fermented Chili Oil and a scrumptious Spaghetti with Local Uni Butter, but his savory meatballs are of the Swedish variety. They are based on his grandmother’s recipe and served with plenty of lingonberry jam and crunchy bits of fried shallots. Make a reservation at Spaghetti Bros..

Dishes Inspired by Mom

William DeMarco, Crush at MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada
DeMarco, the property’s corporate executive chef, recounts,  “I have a lot of happy memories from spending time in the kitchen and learning how to cook from my Italian mother and grandmother. As any true Italian knows, Sundays are meant for pasta, and gnocchi has always been one of my favorites.” DeMarco’s classic Italian Ricotta Gnocchi at CRUSH does have some American influence; it’s served atop a pea puree and topped with braised short rib. Make a reservation at Crush at MGM Grand.

Dishes Inspired by Mom

Todd Kelly, Orchids at Palm Court, Cincinnati, Ohio
Chef Todd Kelly says that growing up, his mom would make a slow cooked lamb on Mother’s Day. She prepared the dish with home-canned vegetables from the garden. Today, he recreates it for guests at the restaurant on Mother’s Day using many of the flavors his mom did. He rubs the leg of lamb with a paste of garlic, rosemary, and parsley, and then sears it and slow cooks it. The sauce is a simple red wine and lamb stock reduction finished with Dijon mustard. Preserved carrots, spring onions, Brussels sprouts, hedgehog mushrooms, and, if available, foraged morel mushrooms round out this spring offering. Make a reservation at Orchids at Palm Court.

Dishes inspired by mom

Rupesh Shetty, Inde Fusion, Scottsdale, Arizona
Fusion cooking allows restaurateur Shetty to combine flavors from his childhood with American influences. He says, “The shrimp and grits dish reminds me of growing up in Mumbai and experiencing my mother’s homemade shrimp curry and all of her incredible cooking. In keeping with our theme of the restaurant, we took a typically Western dish and infused it with a dash of Eastern flavor — so local comfort food meeting masala spice is like a hug from my mom.” Make a reservation at Inde Fusion.

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Kalo Pascha! Top Restaurants for Greek Orthodox Easter Dining

Did you miss the recent sequel to My Big Fat Greek Wedding in theaters? No worries —you can still celebrate some of the best Greek family traditions on May 1 during Orthodox Easter. Featuring not only healthy Mediterranean cuisine that’s vegetarian-friendly, but earthy, unctuous lamb rubbed with herbs and garlic, roasted, spit-fired or added to soups, there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re Greek or not, make a new tradition with a taste of the Old Country at one of these delicious restaurants for Greek Orthodox Easter dining.

Ouzo Bay, Baltimore, Maryland
The weeks leading up to Easter are a great time for Ouzo Bay to showcase their year-round signature dish of fresh whole fish during this period when most Greeks abstain from eating meat. But after the late-night mass the evening before Easter, the tables become boisterous with the spirit of community and celebration not only of the holiest of days but of the feast: whole roasted lamb, platters of lamb chops and shanks, family-style sides of fasolakia (braised green beans), gigantes (giant lima beans), spanakorizo (Spanish rice), horta (sautéed greens), and other roasted vegetables. Ouzo Bay offers its full dinner menu on Greek Easter Sunday with many of the same dishes and several traditional desserts to satisfy anyone whose sweet tooth wasn’t fulfilled by their Easter basket, including baklava, galaktoboureko (vanilla custard), and sokolatopita (chocolate cake). Make a reservation at Ouzo Bay.

Restaurants for Greek Orthodox Easter Dining

Loi Estiatorio, New York, New York
Holidays are always about family in Greece, says Maria Loi, but none makes her smile more than Easter. “It was a special time for me because my father would let me help him roast the lamb and work with the meat, like one of the boys,” she said. “I want everyone to experience the same happiness and joy I do!” She brings smiles to the masses with the spit-roasted whole lamb she grew up making in Roumeli in central Greece. “The lamb from Roumeli is always better, as is the tsoureki (a traditional sweet Greek Easter bread) because of the flora in the region – everything tastes brighter, cleaner, and fresher, so much so that often people will seek to spend their Easter holiday with family in Roumeli. I was very lucky to have grown up there!” Some of her seasonal specialties include kokoretsi (lamb intestines wrapped around seasoned offal) and magheritsa (lamb offal soup), though Loi Estiatorio regulars can also enjoy her crowd-pleaser, the feta mac n’ cheese. “When I was growing up, we ate a very similar dish, and my siblings and I loved it,” Loi said. “When I came to the States, I saw how popular the American version was but also how rich and fattening it was. I thought to myself that I could make it better and healthier, with Greek olive oil and feta cheese … and I was right!” Wrap up your meal with her take on sokolatopitaMake a reservation at Loi Estiatorio.

Restaurants for Greek Orthodox Easter Dining

Kipos Greek Taverna, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Most chefs wouldn’t embrace fasting, but for chef Giorgios Bakatsias it’s an important ritual and a tribute to his childhood growing up in Karpenisi, Greece, with his parents, brother Terry, and sister Olga, who now cook with him at Kipos. “Fasting cleanses the soul and your palate,” he says. “It’s not just a religious act but … [it] makes me able to distinguish and identify different flavors” afterward. Eggs play an important role not just for eating, but for play: each year eggs hand-dyed by Olga are used by diners to try and crack each others’ on Sunday. It is believed that the diner with the last egg will enjoy a year of good fortune. Terry’s rolo kima, a Greek Easter meatloaf, is stuffed with egg, as is the sweet braided tsoureki bread. And, the star of the show is savory roasted lamb with garlic, oregano, thyme, and olive oil. Make a reservation at Kipos Greek Taverna.

Restaurants for Greek Orthodox Easter Dining

Pelekasis at Wink & Nod, Boston, Massachusetts
One of chef Brendan Pelley’s earliest food memories is the smell of slow-roasted lamb with garlic, so this season’s specialty of leg of lamb with horta (lemon-braised greens), lamb-fat-roasted potatoes, rosemary, garlic and herb puree is no surprise. Feeding four to eight people, Pelley’s $150 feast (prepared with 24 hours’ advance notice) is an homage to what his family ate on Greek Easter and his papou (grandfather), who helmed weekly Sunday lamb roasts. Pelekasis — Pelley’s original family name—is an exclusive pop-up inside Wink & Nod that is so popular its run has been extended through June. Make a reservation at Wink & Nod.

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Picked for Your Plate: Top Farm to Table Restaurants for Earth Day + Every Day

Farm to table may be an overly used phrase at this point, but the underlying philosophy will always make sense. What could be better for chefs than access to hyper fresh produce and proteins raised by farmers with whom they have a personal connection? Rather than simply take what’s being offered, chefs are now making special requests for items they wouldn’t otherwise be able to find. We present three top farm to table restaurants for Earth Day that have cultivated special partnerships with farmers so they can serve their guests unparalleled – and oftentimes otherwise unavailable – vegetables, fruits, and herbs.

Travis Swikard, Culinary Director, Boulud Sud, New York, New York
“It all started three years ago, because Stokes Farm from Old Tappan, New Jersey, set up a farm stand next to the restaurant. I began talking to the farmers and ultimately started using his tomatoes. After I went on a farm tour, he offered us half his greenhouse to grow whatever we wanted. Now he grows us a ton of stuff: mustard greens, bronze fennel, pea shoots and pea flowers, pepper cress, and lemon verbena. In the fall, we use 600 pounds of his pumpkins a week — mostly Fairytales to make ravioli and Moroccan-spiced pumpkin soup. We’re also starting to develop a relationship with StarDust Farm in Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania, which we found on Instagram. We’ve been using his eggs for a year; they have bright, plump, firm yolks. They’re super-flavorful and very creamy – the way eggs are supposed to be. We put a slow poached one on top of our spring garlic aïgo boulido (pictured), which is essentially a garlic and potato velouté. This spring, they’re growing garlic for that soup, as well as peas and purple asparagus. In the summer, we’ll be getting baby spicy greens, field lettuce, chilies, piquillo peppers, five kinds tomatillos, and a bunch of different tomatoes. I have a strong drive to find the best ingredients and then make the best food with it. We want our diners to know the stories behind what they’re eating, so I like to provide the servers with some ammunition about these products so they can go to the table to let people know why it’s special.” Make a reservation at Boulud Sud.

Farm to Table Restaurants for Earth Day

Dane Sewlall, Executive Chef, Black’s Bar & Kitchen, Bethesda, Maryland
“Brett Grohsgal from Even’ Star Farm in Lexington Park, Maryland, came by the restaurant randomly one day, we got to talking, and we found out we have the same outlook on food. Everything at his farm is organic and he uses heirloom seeds. Prior to a season beginning, he’ll ask what I’m looking for. In the past, I’ve asked for green strawberries and purple and yellow cauliflower. If it’s in the realm of possibility, he’ll do it. He does a couple things for us that I haven’t seen anywhere else, including napini, which are the flowering tops of mustard greens and have a bitter, biting mustard flavor. He also grows us two edible flowers: red buds, which are pink and taste like snap peas, and little yellow arugula flowers, which have an intense arugula flavor. His pea greens are so much more flavorful and bolder than those grown hydroponically or in a hothouse. I use them to garnish our garam masala-crusted salmon (pictured), which is drizzled with a spicy tamarind sauce and is accompanied by samosas filled with potatoes, onions, and peas. As a chef, I don’t want to work with vegetables that have been on a plane or a boat for weeks on end. The longer it is out of the ground before you eat it, the more flavor it loses. So to serve stuff that’s so fresh and so local is going to give me the best possible flavors to work with.” Make a reservation at Black’s Bar & Kitchen.

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Sweet Spring! 7 Desserts Celebrating Cherry Blossom Season in DC

The capital’s Tidal Basin erupts into a flurry of pink as the cherry blossoms bloom at the end of March and beginning of April. The rosy buds mark the start of spring in the region. To commemorate the return of warm weather, chefs work overtime to create sweet treats which draw inspiration from and pay homage to the much-Instagrammed floral display. Here are seven desserts that celebrate cherry blossom season in DC.

Wildfire
Sing it with us, “Tastes so good make a grown man cry/Sweet cherry pie, oh yeah!” Just to be clear, this sweet vee was inspired by the pies baked in Door County, Wisconsin, — not Warrant’s hair metal anthem. Each generously portioned wedge is packed with the red stone fruit swimming in a sticky filling. Vanilla ice cream is optional though we can’t imagine why you’d want a slice without a scoop. That’s sounds practically un-American to us. Make a reservation at Wildfire.

Cherry Blossom Season in DC

Ted’s Bulletin–14th Street
There are fewer things that make our inner children happier than a pop tart. This seasonal, springtime-only version is packed with cherry filling and glazed pink. Pro tip one: ask the server to pop it in the microwave for 15 seconds, so it’s nice and warm. Pro tip two: Take a couple home, so your breakfast game will be on point the next morning. Make a reservation at Ted’s Bulletin.

Cherry Blossom Season in DC

The Pig
The cherry trees speckling the Tidal Basin were originally gifted by the city of Tokyo in 1912. To evoke those roots, pastry chef Audrey Valero has created a Japanese-styled dessert: matcha pistachio cake topped with black sesame ganache. It’s accompanied by a quenelle of miso caramel ice cream. If that’s not enough, order an additional scoop of azuki bean ice cream. Make a reservation at the Pig.

Cherry Blossom Season in DC

Centrolina
Even the Easter Bunny is envious of this egg. The three-foot-tall chocolate treat decorated with cherry blossoms towers over anything you can buy in the CVS candy aisle. The oversized oeuf will be displayed in the West Wing of the White House over Easter weekend while smaller versions will be used as a part of the annual Easter Egg Roll. Make a reservation at Centrolina.

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