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Posted at 10:57 AM ET, 09/12/2008

Fall Is for Food Festivals

By Julia Beizer

Chocolate, contemporary Greek cuisine, bourbon and a host of other food stuffs are being celebrated at restaurants around town this month. What does this mean for you? Special menus and a handful of freebies -- including lots of free paella.

This Sunday, Willow Restaurant in Ballston brings together two of my favorite things with the Metamorphosis Art Show. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., 26 visual artists show their art to the public, while chefs Tracy O'Grady and Kate Jansen provide free food to art show guests. The visual artists run the gamut: painters, photographer, mosaic makers and filmmakers will all be represented. Visitors can nibble on mushroom bisque, flatbreads, gougeres and other treats from the restaurant's bar menu. Local singer-songwriters will perform and the bar will be open for business (the kitchen is closed for service on Sundays). Ten percent of proceeds from the sale of artwork at the show will go toward a new project, organized by Metamorphosis co-founder Alison Christ and The Reading Connection, which will bring art supplies and lessons to children living in Arlington shelters.

Read on for more food-festival madness after the jump.

For years, Zaytinya has been showing Washingtonians that there's more to Greek cooking than spanakopita, and the restaurant's Greek Modern Festival aims to drive that point home even more. The festival, which started Monday and continues through Sept. 22, features a menu designed by chef Christoforos Peskias of 48 The Restaurant in Athens. Try items like a pork belly souvlaki "sous vide" with tzatziki foam and roasted eggplant with feta ice cream. Desserts from chef Theodoros Moisides, also from Athens, will be available. Dishes will range between $8 and $14, and the special cocktails are available for $10.

On Wednesday, Rosa Mexicano kicked off its annual Festival de Chocolate, which will continue through Oct. 5. All visitors to the Penn Quarter spot, whether they choose to order from the chocolate menu or not, will be feted with free cacao drinks and a chocolate treat. Diners can opt for a $65 four-course tasting menu featuring such chocolate-laden dishes as roasted duck breast with achiote chocolate sauce and a baked shrimp and veggie dish served with a spicy chocolate sauce. All items on the tasting menu are also available a la carte. Want to learn about cooking with chocolate? Chef James Muir will be hosting a cooking demonstration and luncheon at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 20. Guests will look on while Muir prepares mole empanadas, Oaxacan chocolate flan and the aforementioned shrimp dish and then taste the creations after the class. The fee for the class is $35; call 202-654-7010 to reserve a spot.

Spanish restaurant Taberna del Alabardero welcomes the return of its annual Paella Festival on Monday. The restaurant will be offering more than a dozen paella options for $28 per person from Monday, Sept. 15, through Sept. 30. Paellas topped with ingredients like clams, asparagus and baby octopus make up the menu. The downtown restaurant will kick off this rice fest by giving free samples from 11 a.m. to noon on Monday, Sept. 15. During that time, chef Dani Arana will be performing a cooking demonstration on the outdoor patio.

Looking ahead, the Jaleo restaurants kick off the sixth annual Paella Festival from Sept. 29 to Oct. 12. The restaurants collaborated with Chef Rafael Vidal of Restaurante Levante in Valencia, Spain, to design a special menu of paellas that will cost between $30 and $45. Mark your calendars for a few kick-off events. Chef Vidal will oversee the cooking of a giant paella and give out free samples at the Dupont FreshFarm Market Market on Sunday, Sept. 28. The Bethesda Jaleo outpost will give away free paella samples at the bar during a happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. on Oct. 1.

On Monday, Sept. 15, diners who order an entree at Bangkok Joe's can take home more than just a doggie bag. The restaurant will be giving away a gift bag featuring a Thai cooking sauce and a recipe. Chef/Owner Aulie Bunyarataphan plans to start selling freshly made Thai cooking sauces like panang curry and herb-peanut dressing out of the restaurant in October.

In Bardstown, Ky., September is synonymous with the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival. We don't have such a festival in dear old D.C., but on Sept. 17, Old Town's Jackson 20 restaurant aims to get into the act with a $75 six-course tasting dinner that pairs bourbon drinks with boar dishes, like roasted boar leg with a bourbon-port julep or ancho chile flavored pork shoulder with an old fashioned. Make reservations by calling 703-842-2790 -- and even though the bourbon cocktails will be on the smaller side, plan to take a cab.

-- Julia

By Julia Beizer  | September 12, 2008; 10:57 AM ET
Categories:  Events, Restaurants  
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