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Posted at 12:01 PM ET, 04/25/2007

News to Digest

By Erin

For anybody in search of new local flavor, there are restaurants cropping up faster than dandelions all around town this week. Sustainable seafood arrives in Georgetown with a pleasant splash and sweet desserts, a bit of upscale Mexican spices up Adams Morgan, Bethesda welcomes a new steak destination and there will be even more to come in the next few days. Find news on a charitable cookoff, Spanish cheese and more restaurant happenings after the jump.

Gimme Shelter
The fifth annual Carpenter's Cookoff to benefit Alexandria's Carpenter's Shelter takes place this Sunday at the Birchmere from noon until 3 p.m. The cook-off features dishes from numerous local restaurants including A la Lucia, Jaleo, Asian Bistro, Del Merei Grille, Dishes of India, Evening Star Cafe, Rustico, Vermilion and Mai Thai. As with previous years, desserts are provided by Hollin Hall Pastry Shop and coffee comes courtesy of Misha's. Tickets are $40 ($10 for children, ages 6-17) and admission includes all of the food, a performance by the Melonheads, a souvenir cookbook and live auction. Proceeds benefit the shelter, which houses over 1,300 people per year.

Cheese Please
Jaleo is teaming up with Cowgirl Creamery to celebrate cheeses from Spain. The celebration kicks off tomorrow night with a special wine and cheese pairing dinner at the Crystal City location. Sample cheeses this Sunday at 11 a.m. at the Dupont Farmers Market. From May 1-14, each Jaleo location will offer a cheese happy hour from 6-8 p.m. Monday through Friday. The 14 special cheeses will include Montenebro, a goat cheese from La Mancha; Pau, a goat cheese from Catalonia; and Cabrales, made of cow, goat and sheep milk from Asturias.

New Around Town
Hook opened yesterday with a menu of primarily seafood dishes. Resembling a beach hideout with ocean photography from EarthEcho and walls that would not be out of place among the white-washed buildings of Santorini, Greece, the space bears little resemblance to Cilantro or Firehook, the last two occupants. A few tables occupy the front alcove, but most of the long front space is dedicated to the ample bar and a communal table. In the back dining room, tables are comfortably spaced to heighten the relaxed Mediterranean ambiance.

Chef Barton Seaver's menu focuses on sustainable seafood. Begin the meal by tasting a flight of three crudo plates for $8. Wahoo, scallops with pickled carrots and blackfin tuna were standouts among the seven options; each can be ordered individually for $3. Appetizers include several salads, a mackerel en escabeche, grilled whole calamari and delicious grilled shrimp with stewed beans.

Entrees run between $18 and $26. Last night's menu offered mahi mahi with a sunchoke puree, wahoo with a saffron risotto and a fabulously buttery sablefish with lentils and a cranberry red wine butter. Wild mushroom risotto was the single vegetarian entree.

Pastry chef Heather Chittum's desserts alone are worth a trip. For donut fans, a plate of five Nutella-cream filled donut holes give the current local favorites at Colorado Kitchen and PS 7's a run for their money. The sweet lingonberry linzertorte came with an addictive complementary Taleggio cheese ice cream.

Rarely Legal snuck into the Bethesda space formerly housing South Beach last weekend. The quirky name is reminiscent of ultra-popular Ray's the Steaks, though the two share no affiliation. With some time and a bit of luck, it will also become a steakhouse destination. Standard cuts of steak can be ordered with one of 11 different sauces. Each steak comes with two sides, including standards like macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and assorted vegetables, as well as a gorgonzola polenta cake.

Adams Morgan has a new destination for Mexican bites. Casa Oaxaca, from the owners of Guajillo, opened yesterday with assorted tastes of the southern coastal region. Large plates are approximately $12-$20 and include beef, chicken and pork with a rainbow of black, green, red and yellow mole sauces. Squash blossoms, one of my favorite seasonal treats, appear in various forms around the menu, including as a filling for one of the many taco choices. Among desserts, a Mexican spin on tiramisu is worth a try.

Soon to Come
Raise a Belgian beer to today's opening of Brasserie Beck. From chef Robert Wiedmaier of Marcel's, Beck opens with casual rustic fare including plenty of mussels, other fish dishes and a choucroute. The dining room is partly inspired by retro train stations. The restaurant has 22-foot ceilings, art deco clocks and a beautiful marble bar.

With any luck, Mio will open early next week. Just next to the newly opened Il Mulino, Mio will feature seasonal American fare priced around $26 per entree, including veal with black trumpet mushrooms, leek confit and other treats of the season. Vegetable-based sides, including caramelized sunchokes, run $7 each. For light eaters or those waiting on a table, the restaurant has a communal pit stop table with a menu of "tidbits" priced from $3-$6.

Tomorrow marks the opening of the first of three local locations of Vapiano. The European chain professes to serve "fresh casual" food. With a garden and olive tree in each restaurant, Vapiano produces all its own pastas and most of its ingredients in-house. Patrons will order items like pizza, pasta and salads directly from chefs to customize orders. Upon placing orders, customers will swipe a chip card, which the chain developed in partnership with Microsoft. Swipe the check upon leaving after the meal to settle the bill. Pizzas and pastas range from $6.75-$9.75 depending on ingredients. The first location in the District -- at the corner of 18th and M streets -- opens on May 23.


By Erin  | April 25, 2007; 12:01 PM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  
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My girlfriends are taking me out for my birthday. Could you recommend a restaurant has karaoke on Saturday nights.

Posted by: MD | May 5, 2007 3:30 PM | Report abuse

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