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Dining & Wining – La Gourmandista

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Categoría: Dining & Wining

On the Original Caesar’s Salad, Homemade

As a child, I used to when the Maître D’ would to come to our table and do something. I didn’t mind if he prepared a salad, a flambéed dessert, or if he only came to cut the piece of meat my parents had had asked for and would share. My curiosity was enormous, and I must say I thought it was delightful. Of course, at each restaurant I would have my own personal favorite. There was the place where I liked to ask for strawberries jubilée. Somewhere else, my choice would always be a zabaglione. Nonetheless, the Caesar’s Salad might have been the ultimate favorite. It was something we never prepared at home. It was something simple, yet for me it was a show in itself. As a matter of fact, I remember my father once told me it wasn’t but lettuce with cheese and a few slices of bread.

It called my attention that I could find it here and there nation-wide, as well as abroad. Nevertheless, there was something inside me that complained, for it was never prepared just as we did it back home. Someone -which might have been my mother- told me it had been invented in Mexico.

In time, I was able to confirm the information, and even learned that it wasn’t just Mexican, but from Tijuana. As I had never been there before, I hadn’t been able to taste the original version. Now, last Spring, I was able to go there to visit my stepdaughter. She made it our first stop in the trip. It was like traveling in time.

Once you get there, the charriot in charge of traveling from one table to the next is right in front of you, and it’s loaded up with ingredients to prepare the famous salad. Here, the main difference with my experience as a child is that everyone at the restaurant knows how to prepare it as per the house’s recipe. Evidently, I asked for mine. I confirmed that my ingredient list is correct. I noted some slight differences. For example: I don’t add garlic to mine. I always put yellow mustard instead of Dijon. I use the whole egg, whereas at the restaurant they only use the yolk. I do add an anchovy filet and I asked why they don’t. I was reassured that the Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce has anchovy and therefore it isn’t necessary. I admit that the result is quite similar, but I guess that if I want to imitate the original dish, I must slightly modify my recipe. Among us friends, I will change the type of mustard immediately, for I like more the French rather than the English sauce.

Once we were served our salads, I asked the garçon which of all legends regarding the creation of the salad was the one considered as the real one by the organization. He honestly didn’t give me a straight answer. However, he did confirm though the “official legends”. But before I go into the nitty gritty of the gossip, let me tell you a bit about the history of the man who allegedly created it, and obviously, the gossip.

The Caesar’s restaurant is located on Avenida Revolución, in downtown Tijuana, Baja California. It’s actually no that far from the Mexico-United States international border. The place was founded by an Italian-born restaurateur named Cesare Cardini. He had originally migrated to California from Italy, but he then decided to press his luck in the Mexican border city as he was escaping from the alcohol prohibition in place in the United States in 1919 after the 18th Amendement made to the Constitution became effective. Said law prohibited all alcoholic beverages from being consumed, thus giving the city of Tijuana the chance to live years of glory and abundance. It also became a place that the American society cherished, as everyone started to cross the border to go party.

Evidently, then, just as now, festivities for the 4th of July are an opportunity for all Americans to celebrate, and obviously, crossing the border when not even a beer was allowed would be mandatory if one would want to party with the refreshing beverage in one’s hand. Therefore, Mr. Cardini, having his restaurant open and continuously full, started to run out of ingredients. Among one of the popular legends, it is said that a group of aviation officials arrived, and having nothing to offer them, Alex Cardini, brother of Cesare, and who was in charge of the kitchen the day in question, mixed the ingredients that today make up the famous salad and the rest is history.

Another legend says, that yes, there wasn’t much to offer guests, and the idea came from one of the servers, also from Italian origin, and whose mother used to prepare said recipe back home in Italy. As they saw everything was available in the pantry, the Cardini family prepared it, and then appropriated themselves with the recipe.

The last one of the stories was in fact the one our server told us. I honestly felt it was even more fascinating, as when I asked if the legend was true, he immediately started to narrate it and I didn’t stop him. We just listened and sat there with our mouths wide open. It is said that among the rich and famous who visited the Caesar’s restaurant there was a lady who always came by the restaurant and ordered it. She used to like it so much, she would go to different places around the World and ask for the dish to be reproduced. Her name: Wallis Simpson. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the same lady who was originally from Baltimore, Maryland and who turned upside down the English Crown… to the point that the new king, Charles III, sits at the throne because of the marriage of Mrs. Simpson and the king who abdicated the crown, Edward VIII, his great uncle.

See? I told you the gossip was good. Anyhow, God knows which one of them all is the true story of the Caesar Salad. Maybe in each one of them there is a little bit of truth. The best of it is that even when the place had fallen into ruins, Javier Plascencia, a chef originally from Tijuana and a great representative of the region and its cuisine, together with this family, who’s in charge of a restaurant group, decided to rescue the place that today vibrates with the rest of the city and carries on reminding us that THIS IS the place of birth of one of the most emblematic dishes of the Western Cuisines of the 20th Century.

Lastly, I read somewhere that the Cardini family, upon their return to the United States had sold the recipe to make a bottled version of the dressing. And yes, curiosity killed the cat and I looked for it at a local supermarket. I found it, we tested it, and the consensus at home was that we prefer the homemade version or that of the restaurant.

Here, I share with you the brief video I recorded that day. Then, you’ll find the recipe I usually make at home whenever I can’t go all the way to Tijuana.

The Recipe

Homey Caesar Salad

The classical dish served at the Caesar's Hotel in Tijuana in a version that my mind recreated from memories of my childhood and restaurants from the 80s in Mexico City.

  • small pot
  • small bowls
  • Salad bowl
  • Fork
  • Whisk
  • Kitchen Tongs
  • cheese grater
  • 2-3 leaves lettuce (romaine)
  • 1 filet anchovy
  • ½ tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ lime (the juice)
  • 3 TBSP. olive oil (extra virgin (approximately))
  • ¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano (finely grated)
  • 2-3 bread croutons
  1. In a small pot with water, add an egg and let it come to a boil. As soon as the boiling starts, leave for one minute and bring it out. Submerge the egg in iced water to stop the cooking. (By the way, you may also use the raw egg, but be careful. Also, if you don't like raw eggs, this is a good option to have it partially cooked).

  2. In a big bowl or a salad bowl, and with the help of a fork, mash up the anchovy filet.

  3. Add the Worcestershire sauce, the lime juice, the Dijon mustard, and a teaspoon cheese.

  4. Emulsify all ingredients with the whisk.

  5. Add the soft-boiled egg and then emulsify with the olive oil using the whisk by adding the oil as necessary. The recipe asks for three tablespoons, but you may use a little more if you'd rather. Verify seasoning with salt and pepper.

  6. Roll the lettuce leaves around the salad bowl to dress them well.

  7. Serve in a plate and finish with the amount of Parmigiano Reggiano you desire. Add a few croutons.

  8. If you want to prepare the croutons yourself, a very easy way I like is to cut a few slices of baguette, smear some butter and garlic salt, or some salted garlic paste, sprinkle some grated Parmigiano Reggiano and toast them a little in the toaster oven. They come out delicious and it takes 2 minutes.

Salad
of the World
Caesar, classic, Salad

Lastly, if you go to Tijuana, don’t miss the Caesar’s. Gon and enjoy a Caesar’s Salad. The map to get there is below. Save it!

Frankly…Pizza! Frankly conquering us all

Finding one’s favorite places to do groceries, go fill a prescription, etc. when getting settled in a new neighborhood is difficult. Fortunately, new friends begin to recommend a bit of everything and of course, local restaurants also begin to resonate, especially when people know one can be a hearty eater. We therefore set out to try the neighborhood pizzeria on a Saturday afternoon when we didn’t have many plans. As usual, we were eager to find a place that we could put on the “must see” list in our vicinity.

The restaurant is simple and unpretentious, but with a myriad of details that ought to be emphasized. At the entrance we are greeted by a lady who must not be more than 35 years old. Well, that’s what I think, but I’m not very good at calculating ages. However, I see her young. In fact, the team in general is young. It even seems that several of them might be related. Maybe. All, very happily, run with drinks, salads, pizzas and desserts to deliver to the tables they’re in charge of. The dining room’s is nonstop. Everyone, employees and guests are having a good time. A mom fights with her little angel as they don’t want to sit down and eat. She makes it happen, nonetheless. The atmosphere is quite pleasant Families are enjoying themselves.

To our surprise, sodas and iced tea like most of the casual restaurants around here are not the only kinds of beverages offered in the menu. They also have a good selection of wines, craft beers from the region, and even sodas made in-house. I notice there’s root beer, ginger beer, black cherry and even lemon sodas—all homemade. This starts off good, I thought.

The long list of pizza choices plays with the ingredients that they explain are either homemade or locally sourced. Their supplies come from the region and everything is of short supply chain. To the proposed combinations additions and eliminations to one’s choice can be make given that all pies are made to order right in front of guests, given the wood oven is there, at the end of the dining room, separating the bar from the access to the kitchen. The pizzaiolo works nonstop. The menu is full of seasonal sides and desserts, but I didn’t get to the latter. I ate too much.

In time, we have become regulars of the place. Even when on our first visit I told the owner that although I had liked her pizzas, I would have appreciated a little more oregano in the sauce. She thanked me for the comment and told me that the recipe was her mother-in-law’s. The flavor, little by little, grew on me and conquered my heart and in total honesty, I have accepted I no longer need that extra oregano that my taste buds used to ask for. That first time I noticed that some people would come in and pick up the pizzas to take home. I eventually might have done it as well and waited for them while I enjoying a glass of wine at the bar. The small restaurant was always crowded and wait times would easily be close to 45 minutes to get a table. In those pre-COVID times, they didn’t take reservations and people would patiently wait with a drink, even in Winter.

With COVID everything changed and they obviously had to close overnight. However, the harvest of years of hard work and effort by Frank Linn, his wife and the kitchen and dining room team were immediately rewarded by the community. We all started ordering online as soon as they set it up on their website. We all followed the rules put in place to maintain social distancing and everyone’s safety and well-being. The pizzas sold out in minutes, so in the midst of the madness, the uncertainty and the situation which has had us all on or toes already for almost two years, Frankly… Pizza! not only reinvented itself. They even managed to expand by taking over the adjoining store to cater exclusively to customers with takeout orders. And if there is something they have chosen not to do, it is to use home delivery services such as UberEats, Doordash and Grubhub; the most popular in the United States. In this new location, they installed a second oven which allowed them as well to double their production and thus guaranteeing not only their survival, but also the jobs of their team. The challenges have been many and nonstop. However, before the eyes of customers, they have all been overcome with intelligence and great skill. I long for the arrival of a new viral truce -but if the problem is over, even better- to go back to greet everyone in the restaurant in person and enjoy my favorites… seasonal salad, white mushroom pizza and black cherry soda. Regarding dessert, I’m sorry, but I never get to it.

Website: www.franklypizza.com

Alam Méndez Returns to DC with Maiz 64

In order to go to Maiz 64 in the buzzy food corridor of Logan Circle and 14th Street in Washington, D.C., you’ve got to take your melancholy handkerchief in your pocket and a well-anticipated reservation. Chef Alam Méndez‘s new project quickly fills up the room with migrants as well as locals wishing to soon return thanks to his dishes with modern technique but of the family-based  cuisine of his home State, Oaxaca.

Chef Méndez’s success, guaranteed by his trajectory and recent history in his Mexico City restaurant Pasillo de Humo, is duly certified by his tacos, especially the suckling pig that takes one by the hand to any given Saturday afternoon as a child after having been to the movie theater. An aromatic and juicy meat wrapped in a tortilla as soft as Grandma’s cheek.

But not everything is street food in Maiz 64, there’s also fine-dining. For example, the pastor octopus served with grilled bok choi and pineapple highlights the annatto used as seasoning from Oaxaca just as the House’s nixtamal. A selection of Mexican tequilas, mezcals, and wines complete the experience to take you to the country we all miss and which grows together with its’ cooks who have crossed the border to conquer palates discovering the new Mexican cuisine.

It is known that in the land of the Aztecs, much of the food is spicy. However, here, the chef welcomes you with an appetizer of blue corn tortillas and a non-spicy salsa based on roasted eggplant and tomatillo. It is delicate and does not burn the taste buds at the beginning of the experience.

Then, for the second service, I ordered some Esquites. These corn kernels, also known around here as Mexican Street corn, have their origins from the stands at towns squares and outside churches. These, in Mexico are prepared with white corn. In the United States sweet corn is the most common choice. Here, Méndez presented me with something different. It was an elevated version with a medley of white, yellow and blue corn. A bit spicy, but not overwhelming, I should say. The merchant shall always offer a little spiciness.

On the other side of the table, there was beet salad. At a first glance, it doesn’t appear to be Mexican. Ingredients are local and available in many parts of the world, but as a whole, every bite tasted like Mexico. One gustatory surprise after another.

And while I had the octopus al pastor on one side, my partner did not hesitate to share a bit of his selection either. Duck Breast with green apple compote and Mantamanteles mole. The duck, which by the way was perfectly cooked and could have been the dish in itself, was accompanied by an impeccable, fine, roasted mole, and although not traditional, it reminded me of my chef from whom I learned the recipe for this fruity sauce. I dare to describe it with the extremely overused phrase of ‘flavorful party’ but that was truly crazy.

The night is coming to an end and it is therefore time for dessert. I ordered churros as it was a pending dish from the last time I was a diner at Alam. My husband had strawberries and cream. The chef comes to our table and has a brief chat with us. We talk about his expectations in this new place and the perception with which we see compatriots as well as experts in the culinary field have perceived his arrival. He additionally pampers us with what I understand is his favorite dessert, Chocolate and Café de Olla.

Each one was completely different. The churros made me smile. I loved that they were not perfectly uniform. It was obvious that they were handmade. The dark chocolate sauce with passion fruit I dare say reminded me of the spiced chocolate that is characteristic of my homeland. The strawberries were original, modern and in the form of a sorbet. They had just the right amount of sugar on both, the panna cotta and the sponge cake. The Chocolate and Café de Olla… it tasted like Oaxaca.

For sure, this restaurant will seem expensive to some. I believe the quality is well worth it. I don’t hesitate for a moment in stating that this is currently the best modern Mexican cuisine restaurant in the US capital.

Web: maiz64.com

Note: To Go orders can be done directly on their website.

Barbacoa at Home: A Fancy Lunch

Nothing more obnoxious than a plate of cold food food when, in order for it to taste good, it ought to be warm. And this is exactly what I went through when encountering for the first time the traditional lamb barbacoa from the State of Mexico at the young age of eight. Still such a bright memory. My mom served me a portion with the plate full of the greasy cold meat while looking at me defiantly, almost sparkling firecrackers at a distance off her eyes. You all know what I am talking about, right? I mean, moms do that to their offspring, sometimes. The following 20 years, as I’m sure you can imagine, I wanted nothing to do with the popular lamb barbacoa.

I grew up and began to give food that I previously wasn’t fond of a second chance. Maybe my previous first impression of a dish could change now. I was right and it has become a beloved the dish. Something served at parties in small towns and prepared in different forms for weddings, Easter, and even family get-togethers. Now, I drive more than 100 miles to get the one carefully prepared by chef Cristina Martínez of Philadelphia’s South Philly Barbacoa.

Therefore, when she announced they’d come to DC, and orders for sale would be available, I quickly put my name in the list. I wanted to be among the fortunate ones so badly. Lucky for me, I was. I received an SMS the night before confirming my order. Now, I only had to arrive on time to the address in my message sharply at 11:00 AM. 

I woke up quite early since I had a dentist appointment. What was I thinking?, I told my self. Who in the name of God goes and gets anything fixed in their mouth before being able to taste these delicious tacos and believe it would be a good idea? That was SO stupid of me! Oh well! Half my mouth was numb. Fortunately I had no pain, I drove as fast as possible to arrive just in time at Rabaut Park in the Adams Morgan area of town. It was only necessary for me to find a parking spot.

15 minutes going round and round and nothing. I started to get worried and desperate at the same time. I didn’t want to end up losing my beloved package. My order wasn’t big, but it was lunch, and I had only had some fruit and a cup of coffee for breakfast. Round and round again, I finally found where to park the car. I ran and followed my Google Map to arrive in the least time possible to meet with Ben, Cristina’s husband, by his truck. There, he had all the packages ready and labeled for the craving souls who stared at them as the greatest treasures on the face of Earth.

I have no idea how, but I made it there. 5 minutes later I was about to receive my little piece of heaven in the form of lunch. I got the package, paid for it and headed home, but… where was the car? I started walking very doubtful of my whereabouts and hoping to find it without getting lost. Totally unsuccessful, about 30 minutes later and a bit tired of walking, I got to the car. Exhausted, but happy, I went home.

Upon arrival, there was fanfare. A few minutes in the oven for the meat to be warm and ready to eat. That memory of the cold barbacoa left a mark, so, let us all be patient for a little more time. Warm up the tortillas on the comal for a moment as well and serve with all the toppings on a platter for everyone to prepare their tacos as they like them. In bowls, we served the stock that goes on the side of this meat with rice and chickpeas. It’s a bit spicy, but Cristina makes is perfect for all of us to tolerate.

Finally, I have my taco. It’s warm, just as it should. The tortilla is not masa, but nitxtamal and her aroma gives the information away. It’s like going back in time, to my hometown in the 1980s. I bite it and you can see it in my eyes. I’m crying. They’re so good, they remind my of my dad, of my grandma, and even of my mama looking dagger at me. I reflect on it for a moment and come to the conclusion that giving a second chance to this taco was the best decision ever. Our first encounter wasn’t good, but now, it’s fascinating and I go wherever necessary to find it. The only requirement is for it to taste like my homeland.

Address: 1140 S 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA

Phone: (215) 694-3797

Note: Only cash payments accepted here. An ATM is available for withdrawals if necessary.

From the menu at Contramar to my Dining Room Table

This blog post has probably been waiting its turn to come about for quite some time. For me, to talk about Contramar is something that I probably should do separately. However, today, it seems impossible. Truly, I have no recollection of the year when I went to this delicious restaurant located on the Cibeles roundabout in Mexico City for the very first time. I would most probably lie if I said this or that date, but I do recall it was always necessary to reserve in advance in order to have a table available upon arrival. I also remember its delicious food as well as its being a sure bet if one wants to get together with friends, enjoy the family or delight visitors from abroad. Everyone who asks me to recommend a place to go to in Mexico City gets Contramar.

Not living in Mexico anymore for me has meant missing flavors and places all the time and try to reproduce them at home. Not vainly did I prepare for the very first time tamales on my own while living in Paris even before starting my culinary adventure. It is also not strange that each and every time we crave for something we hit the cookbooks look for classics we have no idea how to prepare and run two or three tests before they become our Proust’s Madeleine and then be part of our house menus whenever we want to delight our guests. And of course, visiting our loved ones while on vacation is the perfect opportunity to also return to places like this one, where one is treated like family and you eat like there is no tomorrow.

So, when any given Sunday as I glanced at books at the local bookstore I came across the culinary novelties of the month and I found My Mexico City Kitchen by Contramar’s cheffe, Gabriela Cámara, I jumped and very excitedly began to flick through its pages. I ran and showed it to my husband. I had already made my decision. This was the book I was to take home. Among the recipes one could find the tuna tostada, the Contramar signature pescado a la talla, as well as other recipes such as a homemade chorizo or even crema that being far from home comes in quite handy at times. And you know what? That’s just the beginning of it.

My discovery was back in the Summer of 2019 if I’m not mistaken and even though it took me longer to start cooking with it, I have to say that discovering the different recipes in this book has been among the silverlining I’ve had during the COVID-19 pandemic. Each time I try a new recipe, we fall in love with it and it gets added to the menus. I must confess though, that now most of my friends have tasted my approach to the tuna tostada, and not to brag, but I think every time it comes out better. Maybe I should try to have Gabriela over and have her taste them and give me her opinion. I mean, why not?

Anyways, when I decided to include recommendations from my personal library, I’ve got to admit that this book was among the masterpieces that inspired me to do so. Therefore, if you haven’t discovered it yet, I highly recommend it. There is also a Spanish edition under the title Mi cocina de Ciudad de México for those who would rather have it in Spanish, and even though I haven’t seen it, I’m sure it must be just as good as the original version in English. As a matter of fact, I just ordered a new copy to give as a gift to a friend, because I saw my culinary ranking before his and his wife’s eyes surmount quite some places thanks to the tuna tostada and the Nonna’s octopus salad. Hahaha!

So yes, my recommendation today is an amazing mexican cuisine book and a fish and shellfish restaurant I consider among my personal favorites. And if you go, don’t just ask for what I’ve shared here, try the shrimp aguachile, the Contramar ceviche with manzano chile (not habanero), the tuna carnitas, and the fig tart or the pavlova. I understand that due to COVID restrictions, it is possible to have either delivery or takeaway. Enjoy the restaurant and the cookbook!

On One of my Favorite Restaurants in Paris : Welwitsch

Welwitsch is a restaurant I have the honor of having known since before it existed, because, even when I am exaggerating a little, it’s got it’s bit of truth. I met Patricia, the chef and owner of the place, from a distance when we were both in culinary school 5 years ago. We never shared a classroom, so I had no idea how she cooked, however, every time we ran into each other, she greeted me and we talked amicably. With time, we became friends.

We followed each other on social media, and from time to time we kept meeting each other at an event at school. A few months later I moved back to Mexico while she was working on opening her restaurant. When I returned to Paris to carry on studying, Welwitsch had just opened its doors. Without wasting any time, I went for brunch with another friend of mine from school as well.

I loved the place. Everything was done with high-quality organic ingredients. It wasn’t pretentious at all, however, when leaving the place, one was quite satisfied and did not feel having paid a whole month’s salary. I returned to Mexico really happy of having visited her new restaurant, but I never sat down to write about it. I don’t even know why. Maybe it was just because I stopped writing regularly.

When we were planning last Fall’s visit to Paris, we had to also choose where to go with each group of friends. Evidently, this is not done randomly, we thought about the place that would suit each group of people best. Thus, we chose to go to Welwitsch with those who would love homemade, organic food and who would appreciate Patricia’s creations, for I think they are creative jewels she shows in each seasonal menu. I logged on to her website, which by the way is available in more than 10 different languages. That, I was not expecting. However, knowing Patricia, who pays attention to the smallest of details, and that she is a polyglot herself, this isn’t difficult to understand. Anyway, once our table was confirmed, I was sure she would be expecting us: I wasn’t wrong.

Ensalada de temporada con betabel y butternut

We ate deliciously until we couldn’t have one more bite. Laëticia, who is now in charge of the front of the house did not stop the pampering. Of course, Patricia  came out to say hello as soon as she had a moment and could escape from the kitchen. Honestly, the culinary experience was even better than what I remembered, since, apart from the excuse of stopping by to say hello, for me this place has become one of those one shouldn’t miss when in the City of Lights. It has got, I think, everything one wants: good food, good quality ingredients, good service, and on top of all… good prices. To sum it up; it’s a treat.

Address: 91, rue du Chemin Vert, 75011 Paris

Metro: Saint Ambroise     Richard Lenoir           Rue Saint Maur

Ph: +33 (0) 1 4807 3787

Note: This restaurant has permanently closed.

Greek-Inspired Cuisine in the DC Suburbs

It was Friday evening, and we hadn’t seen each other for a couple of years now. It was back in Paris and for a brief moment. Now, we had all moved transcontinentally. We agreed to meet at a nearby place they already knew, for we were the new kids on this block. The company was awesome and I was pleased with what we were served.

A couple of months later we visited the place once more. This time we took some of our most beloved family members. We wanted to share some of what we had discovered in our new home. Again, we liked it very much.

Lastly, a few weeks ago everyone was talking about a culinary event in the city. We decided that Washington’s Winter Restaurant Week was a good excuse to visit the place again. We didn’t have a reservation, since it was all a last minute plan, so as walk-ins they offered to sit us at the kitchen counter. I immediately thought:  Chef’s Table! What a treat!

As you can see, it now takes me some time to decide if I really like a place, for it has happened that I go somewhere and I have a good experience, and when I visit once more the food is not consistent. And you know what? This place IS consistent, and they work every day to achieve it.

Now, I am not an expert in Greek food, however, the flavors I have been served here did remind me of Hellenic territory. We have tried a little of bit everything the menu has to offer, like hummus and taramasalata as appetizers, the tuna tartar, the falafel, and the grilled octopus -perfectly cooked, I must add. Evidently, I cannot leave out the bifteki, or the lamb shoulder. And yes, I did enjoy the baklava with a nice espresso at the end of the meal, as well as the tasteful honey panna cotta.

True may be that when a big name signs the restaurant, people quote the big name at all times, however, I recently read in The New York Times, that the success of Mike Isabella, a name with a certain reputation in the Washington, D.C. area and runner-up of the worldwide famous Top-Chef TV reality competition, relies on the responsibility and trust he has in his team. Therefore, I wanted to know who was truly responsible of the food I was being served at Kapnos Kouzina in Bethesda, MD.

Katarina Famoso, the young Chef de Cuisine in charge of Kapnos Kouzina, the third Greek concept of Chef Isabella, focuses on creating home-style Greek cuisine emphasizing on the rustic flavors and family-style plates one sees if one were eating locally in Santorini or Mykonos, but plated in a modern and tasteful way.

Kat, as everyone calls her, has worked her way up from stagiaire to line cook to Chef de Cuisine and more recently to Executive Sous Chef after having studied and worked at the very reputable Culinary Institute of America as well as in other restaurants of the Isabella restaurant empire.

As I had the chance to chat with Kat, I was able to see how she is and always has been very passionate about food. Part of her ancestors are Filipino, and therefore her culture is pretty much food-driven and life in her home happened very often in the kitchen, hence owing a lot of her touch and seasoning surely to the teachings of her mom, whom she describes as an amazing chef and pastry chef. Nonetheless, she knows and appreciates everything she learned at her alma mater since she started learning the foundations of the culinary arts there. Now, she works to transmit all of this discipline and good practices to her team.

People in the restaurant from my view seem to like her and admire her; marvelous for a restaurant Chef. Thus, one can see how this is evident in what they put on the plate for the guests to enjoy. She knows she is the one responsible for it, however, she is a very hands-on team member who is never shy to pull up her sleeves and actively help out her brigade, when in need.

Definitely, one of the places that have little by little found their place in my list of local places to go to and where I won’t go broke.

Address: 4900 Hapmden Lane, Bethesda, MD, 20814, United States

Subway Station: Bethesda

Phone: +1 (301) 986-8500

Note: This restaurant has permanently closed.

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