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Alexandria Restaurant Week, January 15-24, 2010

Tired of the snow and frigid wind? Tired of endless pots of chili (no matter how good)?  Tired of one more trip to the grocery store?  Despair no more, it’s Alexandria Restaurant Week, 2010.

A tribute to all things local, restaurants throughout Alexandria will feature either a $35 prix-fixe three course dinner or a $35 dinner for two January 15-24. 

An extra attraction this year is the $3.50 “sweet treat” at local bakeries, chocolatiers and dessert shops.

Some 40 of Alexandrias favorite restaurants, including Bastille, Jackson 20, Fish Market, Cheestique, Bombay Curry, and King Street Blues, will be participating.  For a complete list, click here.

Make your reservations now, Alexandria Restaurant Week, 2010 is just around the corner. 

Michael

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Twelve Northern Virginia Restaurants Take Top Honors from Washington Post Critic Tom Sietsman

Twelve Northern Virginia restaurants have taken top honors on this year’s Washington Post list of best restaurants. 

Noted by restaurant critic Tom Sietsman are:

Using one to four stars, this is Sietseman’s rating system:

*Satisfactory – restaurants that are useful to know about if you are nearby; they may have only a few dishes or a single quality, such as a view or atmosphere, to distinguish them.

**Good – restaurants with generally appealing cooking, service and settings, they tend to be worth driving across town for.

***Excellent – rewarding destinations, no matter where you’re coming from; they typically blend high-quality cooking with the environs.

****Superlative – an unsurpassed dining experience ; these restaurants do what they do extraordinarily well.

Look’s like we have some new places to try –

Michael

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 1 Comment »

Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives – My Favorite Places

I am a foodie.  Not one of your Gourmet, Bon Appetit, wine swirling, truffle eating foodies (although, yes, I have been to Italy twice) but rather a dinner, drive-in and dive kind of foodie.

I love finding out of the way, often small places that attract lots of locals and where most tourists or newcomers would never stop.  Often in a “bad” neighborhood or less than obvious (even respectable) venue, the best dinners, drive-ins and dives offer cooking from the heart.  It may be authentic regional cuisine, basic comfort food, a display of ethnic heritage or simply the owner’s own eclectic take on timeless classics.

But holding it all together is a passion for serving great food, made from scratch with the best and freshest ingredients. Ummmmmmmmmm, that sounds pretty ‘gourmet’ to me!

And where do I find my dinners, drive-in’s and dives?  Well, I’m always on high alert when showing property or taking a road trip, but most often I tune into the Food TV Network for Guy Fieri’s Dinners, Drive-Ins’ and Dives.

Last September we took a driving trip to Maine and Guy’s list of places went right with us.  (You can look up locations by state and then just print the whole thing out.)  Clams and lobster rolls – need I say more?

The great thing about Guy’s show is that he gets suggestions from viewers all across the country so its just not places he has picked but places where locals eat every day.

Happy hunting,

Michael

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 1 Comment »

2010 Zagat Guide Adds Only Two New Restaurants in Alexandria

Every year we look forward to being the first to bring you up to date information from the newest Zagat restaurant guide for the Northern Virginia/Washington, DC area.  In fact last year we were so far ahead of everyone else that Zagat’s publicity department actually called and asked us to take our post down.  We politely declined!

This year there are only two new entries for the 2010 edition that arrived in bookstores yesterday.

Joining the Zagat family are La Strada on Mt. Vernon Avenue in Del Ray and Brabo on King Street in Old Town Alexandria.

We’re particularly pleased about La Strada because 1) it’s three blocks from our house and 2) in our first post on La Strada, we predicted that it would soon be Zagat bound and we were right!


Zagat’s notes that the “family owned Northern Italian restaurant  . . . offers a moderately priced menu of locally sourced, seasonal fare in a setting that evokes a Tuscan enoteca along with a communal dining table.”  La Strada has definitely become a neighborhood favorite and it’s nice to have Del Ray well represented.

The second addition to the list is Brabo by Robert Wiedmaier and the Tasting Room at the new Lorien Hotel and Spa on King St.  Brabo serves “upscale Belgian-French and American classics” while the more casual Tasting Room “features a zinc bar and a menu of charcuterie, pizzas, and seafood.”

It’s always fun to see what folks think of our local dining establishments, so be sure and check out what happened in 2009 and 2008.  Zagat’s rankings are from the diner’s point of view and take food, decor, service and cost into consideration.

Reservations anyone?

Michael

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 4 Comments »

Alexandria Real Estate Blog Gets Jump on National Release of 2009 Zagat Information

On Thursday, July 17, we bought a copy of the 2009 Zagat Guide for Washington, DC and Baltimore at our local book store.

On Sunday, July 20, we roamed Alexandria taking pictures of the eight local restaurants that were being named as new additions to the guide.

On Monday, July 21, we wrote our post, added the pictures of the new eateries and published it for all our readers.

AND YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT!

Yesterday afternoon (Monday) we got a call from the Zagat offices in New York City asking us to take our post down. Seems there was a “national media embargo” in place until Wednesday, July 23.

This perplexed us.

It’s not like we had hijacked a delivery truck or slipped a carton off a loading dock or broken into the receiving room of the book store. The books were out, front and center, waiting to be purchased.

They were also available on line through several sources. The information was already in the public domain. Why should we remove our post? We were just fulfilling our mission of writing for and about Alexandria.

We thought about it for a while and then we politely declined.  Would they have asked Matt Drudge or Arianna Huffington to remove a post?  I don’t think so!

So folks, just thought you would like to know that you heard it here first – our modest blog (although we have readers from all 50 states and numerous countries around the world) “scooped” local and national media to bring you local information as it became available.

Want to read more timely information about Alexandria and what’s happening in the local real estate market?

Enter your email in the subscription box below. And, just because we are having so much fun with our “scoop”, the first FIVE subscribers (email subscriptions only, no RSS feeds) responding to this story will receive a Starbucks Gift Card*.

Ummmmmmm, wonder what story we can “break” next?

Michael

*You have to stay with us for at least 6 weeks . . . .

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 4 Comments »

Eight Alexandria Restaurants Added to 2009 Zagat Dining Guide

The 2009 Zagat Guide for the Greater Washington DC and Baltimore area is hot off the press and eight Alexandria restaurants have made the new list.

Zagat’s ranking are from the diner’s point of view and take food, decor, service and cost into consideration.

The Washington area guide received input from 7,235 frequent dinners.

Of these surveyors, 53% are women and 47% are men.

The breakdown by age shows 15% in their 20s; 25% in their 30s; 19% in their 40s; 21% in their 50;; and 20% are 60 or above.

Alexandria restaurants making this year’s list are:

Bookbinders, 109 S. St. Asaph St. 703.683.1776. This steak and seafood emporium springs from the legendary Philadelphia favorite of the same name. Taking over the space formerly occupied by Portner’s Saloon, Bookbinders oak paneled setting is classic and makes it right at home in Old Town.

Carlyle Club, 411 John Carlyle Drive, 703.549.8957. Nightly dancing to “live big band music” or jazz in a room that recalls an early forties art deco supper club. Definitely for persons of a “certain age” the fare is strictly American.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 20 Comments »

Northern Italy Comes to Del Ray’s Mt. Vernon Avenue with La Strada

La Strada, featuring Northern Italian cuisine, is the latest eatery to open on Del Ray’s Mt. Vernon Avenue. And like all good things Italian, it’s a family affair.

Father Stephen Scott, Sr. handles the front of the house with a sure hand and friendly conversation. Mother Diana Balboni oversees the small dining room and is quick to correct any imperfection – like needing more bread, more wine, more anything!

Sisters Kristen and Courtney lead the wait staff and the kitchen is commanded by top chef Stephen Scott, Jr.

But there’s more – dishes can be ordered family style. And it was Stephen Jr’s., grandmother, his ‘Nona’ who inspired his culinary journey with family dinners rich with pastas, sausages and sauces.

Stephen, Jr., (Steve) began cooking at home and then started hands on restaurant work at the age of 13, eventually interning with the great Roberto Donna at Primi Piatti in Adams Morgan.

It was on to Italy for culinary school and then back to Washington for stints at Radicchio, Galileo and Zola.

The younger Scotts are all residents of Del Ray and when the location inhabited by Los Amigos for some 20 years became available – well, the family made a decision and La Strada was born.

Open since June 4, La Strada is, by all indications, a hit. There are no reservations but a communal table in the entrance invites diners to sit, talk, have a glass of wine and, dare we say it, act like Italians! The main dining room seats 50 and the outside patio accomodates another 12.

The menu and wine list are still evolving but look for locally sourced and seasonally sustainable ingredients to take center stage. So relax, enjoy and let a bit of Northern Italy transport you for a night.

And, you heard it here first – look for La Strada to be one of the newest entries in next year’s Zagat Guide for Alexandria.

La Strada is located at 1905 Mt. Vernon Avenue, next to Bungalow. Phone: 703.548.2592 or 703.548.2542.

We only live 2 1/2 blocks down East Howell so guess what – we’ll see you there!

Michael

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 16 Comments »

Angry Alexandria Consumers Want to Know – Where Are the Grits?

Our original plans for Mother’s Day were centered around a low key evening of grilling and dining on our back patio. Torrential rain storms and chilly temperatures made moving inside a wise decision. But it also meant a menu change. We are “challenged” for space in our dining area so when more than three or four are gathered together it is strictly buffet and we always try for an easy, one utensil meal. We settled on shrimp (do you notice a trend here?) and grits and a green salad and set off to do our shopping.

We wanted stone ground grits, an artisanal delicacy with a distinct coarse texture and taste. Giant had “quick” grits – ugh. Balducci’s had not a single grit of any kind. Safeway had regular Uncle Ben’s Grits (ok in a pinch) and Whole Foods had “Corn Grits also known as Polenta”. Now, I know people like to think that polenta and grits are the same thing but they’re not, not really. Besides, the corn grits came from Oregon and everyone knows that grits do not grow in Oregon. Four markets in one day was more than enough for me so Harris Teeter and Trader Joe are off the hook on this one.

Tonight we will have to settle for Uncle Ben but tomorrow I’m checking in with www.Hoppinjohns.com first thing and ordering in my supply of stone ground grits. To paraphrase Scarlett, ” . . . . I’ll neva go hungry for stone ground grits agin.”

Happy Mothers Day to all women who have nurtured and loved,

Virginia and Michael

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 2 Comments »

“Royal Reds” Are A Shrimp Lover’s Dream

I was cruising the Food section of the Washington Post last week when an article by John Martin Taylor caught my eye and three words came spinning off the page – shrimp, Thunderbolt, and the Williamses.

I love shrimp, I spent every summer of my growing up on Wilmington Island (just over the bridge from Thunderbolt and Savannah) and our favorite road side dinner was the now defunct Williams Seafood.”

If you’ve been looking for some new shrimp recipe’s or just want to add to your culinary knowledge about “royal reds“, check out John’s article, you’ll be glad you did.

Check out his online store too at www.hoppinjohns.net.
Virginia


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 7 Comments »

The Surest Sign of Spring – Tables and Customers on the Sidewalks of Alexandria

ON THE AVENUE

People and Places on Del Ray’s Mt. Vernon Avenue 

Driving home tonight I saw what I had been looking for these past few weeks.  With Mother Nature at her finicky best, our few temptingly warm days have been followed by freeze warnings (well almost).   Not to be deterred, the bravest souls in shorts and flip flops have raised defiant fists to the weather gods but the one sure sign still eluded me.  But then tonight, there it was – Del Ray stalwarts were flocking to the open patio at Fireflies

 

Maybe another place beat them to the punch on another night but since I didn’t see it, Fireflies goes down on my calendar as the first restaurant in Del Ray to open its patio for the 2008 season. 

Granted, the umbrellas were down and most of the patrons had on jackets  – no matter, folks were eating outside!  For some of you that might not seem like a great accomplishment but here in Alexandria, we take the ability  – and opportunity – to dine ‘al fresco’ very seriously.  The smallest section of sidewalk is all it takes  – that and a restaurant’s willingness to supply tables, chairs, an umbrella or two and wait staff.  And those dogs we love so much, well, they can come too!

About Fireflies  – Marylisa Damiani and Dan Lichens, graduates of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) opened this ‘fast, fresh, fun’ eatery in late 2002 in a former auto parts store owned by Tony Damiani, Marylisa’s father. 

Eighty tons of rubble were removed to make way for a custom walk-in fridge, industrial mixer, 800 degree pizza oven (nicknamed Nadine), a deli case and the curved “great wall of wine.”

Affordable wines and thin, thin, hand-thrown pizza crust are highlights here as is the Tuesday – Friday, 4:30-6:30pm happy hour and the bluegrass Sunday brunch.

I think I know which patio I’ll be on this weekend . . .

Virginia

Our guest author today is my spouse, manager, and all round good friend.

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 10 Comments »

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