October 31, 2014
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Local Flavor

Eleven chefs dish on their passions and aversions, their culinary influences and their favorite places to eat, shop and play around town.

Hoa Lai of Four Sisters with his favorite breakfast: pho. Photo by Jonathan Timmes

Hoa Lai of Four Sisters with his favorite breakfast: pho. Photo by Jonathan Timmes

Chefs hold a certain mystique. As the architects of your dining experience, they are seldom seen behind the kitchen’s closed doors, although in this area they may well be shopping at the same farmers markets, frequenting the same watering holes, or growing heirloom tomatoes in that luscious backyard garden you pass each time you head out for a run. Where do our town’s best chefs go on their days off and their nights out? What do they stock in their pantries at home? And whose cooking do they like the best, other than their own? We talked to a handful of local culinary stars to learn more about the personalities behind the food.

Hoa Lai

Executive chef, Four Sisters, Merrifield.Lives in: Merrifield, Falls Church.

For the past 10 years, Hoa Lai has been executive chef of what is arguably the most sought-out Vietnamese eatery in the D.C. area. Formerly located at Eden Center, where it was named Huong Que (“essence of home”), his family’s nearly 20-year-old  restaurant moved to Merrifield Town Center in the fall of 2008 and rebranded itself as Four Sisters—so named in honor of Lai’s siblings. With Lai at the wok, the kitchen has defined and embraced American/Vietnamese cuisine, melding the family’s Viet and Chinese heritage with French influences from back home. Bringing a light touch and sublime flavors to dishes such as grilled pepper beef and sea bass with black bean sauce, Lai has won the admiration of many fellow culinarians in the region, including Patrick O’Connell, chef and owner of The Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Va., who is a regular customer.

Career influences

My mother taught me everything I know about cooking Vietnamese food. We have similar palates and know how to balance salt and sugar. My father is my biggest critic. He’ll be sure to try my food every so often and let me know what I should change.

Favorite Arlington restaurant

Thai Square on Columbia Pike. The food is consistently good and a wave of nostalgia hits me every time I dine there. It reminds me of how my family started in the restaurant business.

Local market of choice

My family’s deli, Song Que (which means “two homes”), in Eden Center. I like the mango smoothie with tropical jelly.

What’s for breakfast?

Pho, or any type of noodle soup.

Alternative occupation

I’ve always wanted to sell cars. I’m a fast talker and I get a rush out of persuading people to try something they’re unsure about, like a new recipe at the restaurant. Sometimes you have to persuade people and make it sound more appealing.

What I like about Falls Church

I enjoy the diversity. I eat out a lot. There’s a restaurant for every type of cuisine you can imagine within minutes of where I live in Merrifield. I love the Peruvian joint, Super Chicken.

Summer drink

Fresh coconut water—the real thing, not the bottled stuff.

Guilty food pleasure

Bacon and anything with pork fat—on a burger, in fried rice, in a soup. It always tastes good.

Beyond the kitchen

I enjoy basketball and cycling on the W&OD Trail. I also have a newfound appreciation for gardening, growing different types of Japanese maples and hydrangeas.

 

Bayou Bakery creator David Guas loves motorcycles and his own beignets. Other chefs are fans of his New Orleans-style sweets, too. Photo by Jonathan TimmesDavid Guas

Partner and executive chef, Bayou Bakery, Courthouse.

Lives in: Chesterbrook Woods, McLean.

New Orleans native David Guas credits his Cuban Abuelo (grandfather) and stateside “Granny” from Amite City, La., as the mentors who gave him an early appreciation for seasonal produce and Cajun flavors. After taking culinary classes in his hometown, he secured a job as assistant pastry chef at the Big Easy’s acclaimed Windsor Court Hotel. The venue’s executive chef at the time, Jeff Tunks, would later invite Guas to Washington to open DC Coast in 1998. As corporate pastry chef for Tunks’s Passion Food Hospitality (PFH), Guas went on to develop the dessert menus for several of its restaurants, including DC Coast, Ten Penh, Ceiba, Acadiana and PassionFish. Following the 2009 publication of his critically acclaimed cookbook, Dam Good Sweet: Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth, New Orleans Style, he partnered with PFH to open Bayou Bakery, a sweet and savory café featuring southern comfort fare and desserts such as beignets and chicory-coffee pralines.

Neighborhood favorites

Pupatella Pizza has fantastic, authentic Neapolitan pizza, and their arancini balls (sausage or eggplant) are unbelievable. Thirsty Bernie has the best Reuben sandwich in town, and all of their sausages and meats (by butcher Jamie Stachowski) just hit the spot. I’m also a fan of Joe’s Burgers in McLean. They grind their meat in-house and have great buns. My pick is the Butcher’s Choice with horseradish mustard, caramelized onions and smoked mayo.

Local markets of choice

Lebanese Taverna Market is my go-to spot for last-minute dinners. I hit up the Organic Butcher in McLean whenever I’m looking for something special (their rabbit is incredible). Plaza Latina in Falls Church is where I discovered the bread I now use for all of my sandwiches at Bayou Bakery. They have some of the best blood sausage anywhere.

Local chefs I admire

Enzo Algarme of Pupatella took what he loves from his childhood, brought it to the United States with a food truck and then turned it into a thriving business. Steve Mannino of Rustico in Ballston was one of the first chefs I met when I started working here in D.C. He makes an unbelievable plate of pasta.

Best-kept food secret 

Jason Andelman’s Artisan Confections in Clarendon makes some of the best chocolate in the country—right here in our neighborhood.

Signature pastry

Our Dat-O’s—oversized homemade Oreos—have become really popular. Some people come every week to get their fix.

Alternative occupation

Carpentry. In college, I worked for a furniture company that made its own pieces. I love working with my hands.

Family dinner favorite

I make these gigantic turkey meatballs with homemade marinara sauce that my wife and sons love.

Beyond the kitchen

I love to ride my motorcycle west to the Shenandoah. Or, sit in a freezing-cold goose blind snacking on some porkorn (popcorn with bacon) waiting for the perfect shot. With the family, we’ll take day trips to Great Falls. Just sitting on a rock and watching the rapids flash by on a nice day is awesome.

Childhood memories

From New Orleans: Plum Street Snoballs, apple pie at Hubig’s Hand Pies, and buttermilk drops from McKenzie’s Bakery (glazed yellow cakes the size of baseballs).

 

Amy Brandwein of Casa Nonna steps out for sushi at Bonsai. Photo by Jonathan TimmesAmy Brandwein

Executive chef, Casa Nonna, Washington, D.C.

Lives in: Aurora Hills, Arlington.

When it comes to cooking outstanding Tuscan fare, Arlington native Amy Brandwein is a top contender. Currently occupying the helm at Casa Nonna in the District, she remembers “stomping around” her family’s backyard vegetable garden in Barcroft as a kid with her father—an early introduction to farm-to-table. The pair made pizza from scratch, which inspired her present cooking style. Brandwein kicked off her culinary career as a pastry assistant under award-winning chef Roberto Donna at his landmark Galileo in the District, where she rose to executive chef. Closer to home, she and Donna opened the now-shuttered Bebo Trattoria in Crystal City, and re-launched fyve, the restaurant lounge at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Pentagon City. At Casa Nonna, with her wealth of experience, come memorable pasta dishes.

What I love about Arlington

Its livability, parks, trees and short commute to Washington. The citizens of Arlington come from many different parts of the world, making it a diverse, wonderful cultural melting pot.

Neighborhood favorites

Bonsai Sushi on 23rd Street. It’s very small and the sushi chef and his wife always make us feel at home, plus the sushi is terrific. We catch pub fare at the Crystal City Sports Pub. I am also known to get serious hankerings for Kabob Palace on Eads Street. They have terrific braised spinach and chickpeas.

Local market of choice

Crystal City FreshFarm Market. I love to pick up small globe eggplant, fresh garlic and fruit to cook very simply at home.

Outgoing food trends

Aerated sauces and foam. I predict that molecular gastronomy [using chemistry to create modern presentations] is on its way out.

Alternative occupation

I like to write and research, so perhaps a culinary journalist, author or food stylist.

Favorite aroma

Garlic cooking in oil.

Dog-eared cookbook

The Food of Italy, by Waverly Root.

Guilty pleasure

A kosher hot dog.

Signature dish

Stracci di manzo—rough cuts of fresh pasta cooked in a ragu of braised beef short ribs.

 

CityZen pastry chef Matthew Petersen often heads to Bob & Edith’s for breakfast with his wife, Laura, and daughter, Caleigh.  Photo by Michael VenturaMatthew Petersen

Executive pastry chef, CityZen, Washington, D.C.

Lives in: Columbia Forest, Arlington.

Since 2010, Matthew Petersen has led the baking team for both the award-winning CityZen and the more casual Sou’Wester restaurants at the Mandarin Oriental hotel near the National Mall. His boss, executive chef and James Beard Award-winner Eric Ziebold, calls Petersen’s desserts and pastries “uncomplicated, yet exceptional.” A native of Dublin, Pa., the classical-French-trained Petersen worked for star chef Daniel Boulud in both New York and Palm Beach. And if his youthful face seems familiar, you’ve probably seen him on television. Last fall, he was one of 14 chefs competing on the Bravo network show, Top Chef: Just Desserts.

Favorite Arlington restaurants

My family and I hit up Bob & Edith’s on Columbia Pike at least a couple times a month for breakfast. I love the atmosphere and service, with good food to boot. I get the pancakes, my wife has an omelet, and my daughter has the Mickey Mouse pancake. Guapo’s in Shirlington comes in a close second. I get the tacos al carbon.

Local market of choice

Trader Joe’s on Leesburg Pike for just about everything. Great customer service and selection. The baked goods are definitely worth it as well. I also love The Italian Store on Lee Highway. It provides a little taste of home that took me two years to find.

Alternative occupation

Racing touring cars. I’ve always been fascinated with cars and motor sports.

Fondest childhood dessert memory

My mom’s red velvet cake.

Outgoing and incoming trends

Terrible gluten-free baked goods are out, and really good ones are in. It has everything to do with the quality of ingredients. This is something we do a fair amount of at CityZen, so I’ve been able to develop some really good recipes.

What I love about Arlington

The neighborhoods. There are so many great places for my family and me to hike or ride our bikes. When the weather isn’t super cold I ride my bike to work, down the Four Mile Run Trail to the Mount Vernon Trail into the city. My daughter has a trailer that I put on my bike and we ride to the park at Barcroft. She really loves that.

TV takeaways

I made some great friends and it had an immense impact on my career. I’ve appeared on the Today show. I get calls from other reality shows. Plus, I did so well on the show that I got a great raise at work.

Summer drink

Iced coffee, hands down.

Apps I can’t live without

Right now, Redfin and Zillow because we are searching for our first home purchase in Columbia Forest, Claremont or Shirlington!

 

Adam Barnett (left) and Liam LaCivita cooked together at The Liberty Tavern before Barnett went to Eventide.  Photo by Jonathan TimmesAdam Barnett

Executive chef, Eventide, Clarendon.

Lives in: South Arlington.

Ohio native and Arlington resident Adam Barnett has worked under two of the most critically acclaimed chefs in the country, learning his trade from the masters. Earlier in his career, he was sous-chef at West End Bistro in D.C.’s Foggy Bottom, where he worked with fish guru Eric Ripert. He then became both pastry cook and lead butcher at The Inn at Little Washington under perfectionist Patrick O’Connell, where the inn’s pastoral setting gave Barnett an education in sourcing local products from farms and producers. Closer to home, the rising culinary star cooked at The Liberty Tavern with Liam LaCivita before taking the helm at Eventide. A skilled sauce maker who combines an array of flavors in every dish, Barnett offers presentations that are always creative and artistic.

Neighborhood favorites

My wife and I love Bangkok 54 on Columbia Pike, where I’m addicted to the braised beef. If I am just chewing the fat with friends, I go to Jay’s Saloon on 10th Street. It reminds me of the neighborhood bars back in Ohio. The pitchers of beer and frosty mugs are a serious draw.

Local market of choice

The Sunday Columbia Pike Farmers Market is cool. I like to pick up produce from vendors like Toigo Orchards.

Local chefs I admire

Bertrand Chemel at 2941 has to be in the conversation. Every time I see his food, I am humbled. Also, Andy Bennett from Lyon Hall and Liam LaCivita at The Liberty Tavern. Liam and I previously worked side by side.

Biggest competitor

Lyon Hall, in the sense that our demographic is very similar. Andy Bennett and I clearly draw a lot of our inspiration from France, so it would be safe to say we draw from the same well…although I trend a little more French-Mediterranean, whereas Andy’s conceptual and thematic framework puts him more Alsatian/Northern French. Between us we form kind of a Francophiles’ Mason-Dixon Line.

Best-kept food secret

Arlington has really exploded in the last few years, so there are very few ”secret” spots anymore. There is a small trend of cool bakeries, though. David Guas did Bayou Bakery, and now there is LeoNora Bakery in Clarendon and Señor Pan, the new Peruvian bakery on Walter Reed Drive in my neighborhood.

I love Arlington because…

I can bike or walk to work when I feel the inclination. I also like that there are so many people of such diverse interests. In any one day, you can meet a guy who works at a think tank by day and is a woodworker at night…or a woman who is a lawyer by trade, but volunteers for a children’s charity and welds metal art in her free time. There is such a great cross section of the world here.

Guilty food pleasure

Dill Pickle Pringles Chips. I am pretty sure that when my wife hits the grocery store she buys the allotment for Arlington County in one fell swoop.

Alternative occupation

Carpentry. It’s what I did prior to cooking. I loved the craftsmanship. I would have probably ventured into historic home restoration at some point.

Beyond the kitchen

I try to spend time with my wife and our dog. When I was at The Inn at Little Washington, we took advantage of the Shenandoah National Park quite a bit. I don’t get down there as much now, but I love the woods. There is a calm that a long hike brings to the soul that, to me, cannot be found anywhere else.

Family dinner favorite

A whole roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and pan gravy.

Fond childhood memory

My paternal grandmother’s pickled beets. Odd for a child, I know.

 

Liam LaCivita

Partner and executive chef, The Liberty Tavern, Lyon Hall and Northside Social, Clarendon. 

Commutes from: Fredericksburg.

A graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, Liam LaCivita maintains a prominent presence in Clarendon, overseeing the kitchens at The Liberty Tavern, Lyon Hall and Northside Social. All three reflect his dedication to food craftsmanship, offering artisan house-made sausages, charcuterie and more than a dozen varieties of mixed milk cheeses. A native of McKeesport, Pa., LaCivita grew up in a large Italian/Irish clan. He gathered experience as executive chef at Centro Italian Grill in Bethesda, and in the Four-Diamond-awarded kitchen of the Berkeley Hotel in Richmond before helping to open The Liberty Tavern. He makes his home in Fredericksburg with his wife and two daughters.

Favorite Arlington watering hole

O’Sullivan’s, for a good pint of Guinness. They pour a proper pint, and it’s right next door to The Liberty Tavern.

Local chef I admire

Tracy O’Grady at Willow. I’m impressed with her dedication to the craft and her attention to detail.

Local market of choice

I like the Falls Church City Farmers Market. In the fall, the heirloom apple assortment is outrageous.

Guilty food pleasure

Chicken nuggets...with a Miller High Life. I know, it goes against everything…that’s why it’s a guilty pleasure, right?

Dog-eared cookbook

Anything from Marcella Hazan.

Alternative occupation

A landscape painter. Of course that probably wouldn’t pay my bills and feed my family.

Signature dish

The menu is my signature dish. When I get tired of it, I change it.

Beyond the kitchen

I watch the Military Channel after a long day’s work. Before work I like to tend to my fledgling garden. In spring and summer, I grow breakfast radish, mesclun greens, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers. In fall, beets, carrots and Swiss chard.

Family dinner favorite

Depends on the season. In summertime, it’s anything on the grill. In fall, it’s sauerbraten. In winter, probably macaroni with a good meat sauce.

Fond childhood memories

My mother’s rigatoni with a ragu made with pork butt, slowly cooked with pepperoni. Also beef braciola stuffed with pancetta, herbs and breadcrumbs. It’s pretty damn good.

 

Bertrand Chemel of 2941 frequents Merrifield’s Asian markets. Photo by Jonathan TimmesBertrand Chemel

Executive chef, 2941, Falls Church.

Lives in: McLean.

For Bertrand Chemel, the year got off to a busy start with a major overhaul of the kitchen, bar and dining room at 2941. His hope is that the restaurant’s new, more casual, affordable modern American/Mediterranean menu will attract customers for more than special occasions. But this is not to say that the native of the Auvergne region of France isn’t keeping to the high standards of his Gallic training. He likes to say he became “obsessed” with cooking in his teens, serving as an apprentice to renowned chef Michel Gaudin at his noted eatery in Megève, France. After a move to the U.S. in 1999, Chemel was guided by top New York toque Daniel Boulud in the kitchens of both Daniel and Café Boulud before he joined 2941 in early 2008. Named 2011 “chef of the year” by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, Chemel has only to step into the beautiful garden off the dining room of 2941 to gather a bounty of fresh herbs for his kitchen.

I love McLean because…

It’s close to work and only 20 minutes from D.C., with great museums and restaurants, and a very good school for the kids [Saint John Academy]. It’s a very clean community with lots of parks and outside activities.

Family night out

My children like Coastal Flats in the Tysons Corner Center, which offers comfort food that’s kid-friendly. Also, Pizzeria Orso and Four Sisters in Falls Church, and Joe’s Burgers in McLean.

Local markets of choice

I like the Falls Church City Farmers Market for nice vegetables. Also, Han Ah Reum Korean market in Merrifield for fresh Asian vegetables and great fresh fish. My daughter loves their seafood Korean pancake.

Fond childhood memory

My grandmother’s bouillabaisse. Also, pâté au pommes de terre. It’s a potato pie that my mom made with a crème fraîche from the farm—very simple but delicious.

Alternative occupation

I never had any passion in my life other than to be a chef.

Guilty pleasures 

Cheese, chocolate and charcuterie.

Family dinner favorites

Quiche, and also quinoa risotto. My kids like both.

Flavor aversions

Sour cabbage, like kimchi, and sweet pickles with dill.

Always in the home fridge

Spanish Manchego and creamy Italian La Tur cheeses. Balducci’s in McLean has a great selection.

 

Rasika’s tandoor virtuoso Vikram Sunderam peruses the wine cellar at 2941. It’s one of his favorite spots close to home.  Photo by Jonathan TimmesVikram Sunderam

Group executive chef, Rasika, Washington, D.C.

Lives in: McLean.

Ever since tandoor oven master Vikram Sunderam joined Washington restaurateur Ashok Bajaj in opening Rasika in D.C.’s Penn Quarter in 2005, praise for his cooking has been unending and waits for a reservation lengthy. (Don’t miss the palak chaat—the crispy spinach with yogurt and date chutney appetizer.) It didn’t take long for Esquire food critic John Mariani to proclaim that, “Rasika is not just one of the best Indian restaurants in America; it is also one of America’s best restaurants, period.” With the recent opening of a second Rasika in D.C.’s West End, Sunderam was named group executive chef. A native of Mumbai who spent 14 years at London’s award-winning Bombay Brasserie before relocating to this area, he and his wife now share their home off Chain Bridge Road with their daughter, a student at McLean High School, and a son, who attends Longfellow Middle School.

Most creative dish

There have been many over the past six years, like the palak chaat, black cod, and tawa baingan—a stacked eggplant-and-potato dish with coconut sauce—to name a few.

Local markets of choice

I go to the McLean Farmers Market at Lewinsville Park, which is near where we live.  I get the apricot-and chili-flavored cheeses.

Dog-eared cookbook

The Masala Art, by chef Hemant Oberoi.

Favorite dining spots near home

2941, Mark’s Duck House, Four Sisters and Seasons 52.

What I love about McLean

The immense diversity of people, cultures and cuisines. There are lots of diplomats from Southeast Asia and the Middle East here.

What’s for breakfast?

Whole-grain cereal and a cup of tea.

Summer drink

Pimm’s Cup.

Fond childhood memory

My mother’s masala-fried silver pomfret.

Alternative occupation

If I weren’t cooking, I would be playing drums. I play all kinds of modern and classical Indian music. Bollywood too.

 

Morou Ouattara of Kora and Farrah Olivia shops for fresh ingredients at Eden Center. Photo by Michael VenturaMorou Ouattara

Owner and executive chef, Kora and Farrah Olivia, Crystal City.

Commutes from: Bowie, Md.

The man behind Mediterranean-focused Kora and American, French and African-inspired Farrah Olivia is Ivory Coast native Morou Ouattara (who, in the culinary world, is known simply as Morou). After arriving in the U.S. in 1988 to study computer science, he quickly found that his true love was cooking, working his way up the line to become executive chef at Mark Miller’s Red Sage in downtown Washington. From there, Morou moved to the top kitchen position at nearby Signatures, owned by the infamous former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In 2006, he opened his own spot, Farrah Olivia, in Alexandria to rave reviews from local food critics. After a three-year run, he closed Farrah and opened Kora in Crystal City. Then, early last year, he brought back the Farrah concept inside Kora’s private dining room. Known for his beautiful plate presentations and artistic flavor combinations, Morou has competed on Food Network’s Iron Chef America, as well as The Next Iron Chef. In his homeland in West Africa, he was raised in a family with 33 children. 

Childhood memory

My mother is a great cook. She used to make smoked lamb stew with okra and chilies, over pounded yam.

Local market of choice

Eden Market at Eden Center in Falls Church. I like the different kinds of colored tapioca, dried fish, variety of kelp and the fresh snails like the ones we have in Africa.

Career influences

[Iron Chef] Masaharu Morimoto. He is extremely creative, but humble.

Flavor aversions?

I will try anything at least once, but I hate the smell of daikon radish soaked in water. It smells like a dead animal.

Most creative dish

It has yet to come. The goal is to always top your latest creation.

An Arlington chef I admire

David Guas of Bayou Bakery. He’s a creative guy who embraces where he grew up, like I do—but with a twist.

Signature dish

It is hard to choose, but I would say the cured lamb with plantain loaf and palm fruit barbeque. It is a mix of the foods I ate growing up and what I learned to cook here.

Family dinner favorite

Beef cheek stew with cabbage, onion and tomato.

Summer drink

The “fojito” at Kora, made with fresh basil, basil syrup, blueberries, lime, white rum and moscato d’asti.

 

Willow’s Tracy O’Grady is a regular at the Falls Church Farmers Market. Photo by Michael VenturaTracy O’Grady

Co-owner and executive chef, Willow, Ballston.

Lives in: Tyler Park, Falls Church.

With her chef and husband, Brian Wolken, as director of operations, and ace pastry chef Kate Jansen as her co-owner and kitchen colleague at Willow, Tracy O’Grady is an impressive force in the local dining landscape. Always with a nod to fresh, local ingredients, O’Grady’s cooking is unfailingly consistent, leaning toward modern continental with classic French and Italian influences. Her culinary rise included stints with Washington top chefs Yannick Cam (Bistro Provence), Roberto Donna (Galileo) and, foremost, Robert Kinkead, in whose eponymous Foggy Bottom seafood restaurant O’Grady rose to become executive chef. In 2001, she represented the United States at the prestigious Bocuse d’Or cooking competition in Lyon, France, one of just 22 chefs from around the world. Along the way, the Women Chefs & Restaurateurs’ association awarded her with a Golden Whisk Award.

Favorite Arlington watering holes

I love The Liberty Tavern. It’s a fun and friendly place and I usually drink whatever the seasonal IPA draft is. Iota is also a great place, especially for music. It is such an Arlington place.

Best neighborhood bites

I like the beef noodle soup at both Pho Sate and Pho 75, and of course the pizza at Orso. I like the Italian shrimp and grits at Argia’s, anything seafood at Sea Pearl, and I love the tofu spring rolls and shrimp toast at Four Sisters.

Local chefs I admire

Chris Nye at Pizzeria Orso, who I think is one of the best young talents to come along. Also, Liam LaCivita of The Liberty Tavern. I just love his style of food. I admire Sly Liao of Sea Pearl for a great blend of Asian and American that is very well executed. And I think David Guas of Bayou Bakery has a novel concept for the area. He makes the best beignets.

Where ideas come from

I do borrow ideas from all my colleagues. I would never put an exact dish of theirs on our menu, but may be inspired by an [ingredient]. One day I was dining at Orso and they had some giant black beans in a fish soup. I thought, We just have to have them on the menu at Willow. They are scarlet runner beans. Very unique!

Signature dish

We specialize in flatbreads and place a heavy emphasis on seafood. Right now we are developing more vegetarian dishes for our Nosh menu. It’s exciting to produce excellent vegetarian dishes for meat eaters and have them say they don’t miss the meat!

Beyond the kitchen

I love to garden, read, meditate, eat great meals with wine and beer, and spend time with my husband, who is also a chef. And yes, I still like to cook at home when I have time.

Dog-eared cookbooks

Kinkead’s Cookbook holds a lot of personal memories for me, as does Jean-Louis Palladin’s Cooking with the Seasons. I’m still in awe of how relevant this book is today. I also like America’s Test Kitchen books and magazines.

What I love about Falls Church

Tyler Park, because it is tucked back, quiet, and there are a lot of old-growth trees. We live on a pretty large lot that’s wooded and private. I’m also very close to Merrifield Garden Center, which, for a gardener, is like heaven.

 

Cathal Armstrong brings Dublin-style fish and chips to the Pike with the new Eamonn’s. Photo by Michael VenturaCathal Armstrong

Chef and creator of Eamonn’s: A Dublin Chipper (and business partner of its adjoining bar, TNT), Columbia Pike.

Lives in: Alexandria.

Dublin native Cathal Armstrong’s latest expansion has brought him to Arlington with a branch of his fish-and-chips joint, Eamonn’s, in Penrose Square on Columbia Pike. It’s joined by a new bar—TNT—so named for Tristan Noah Thrasher, the son of Todd Thrasher, Armstrong’s gifted mixologist and business partner. Since opening his flagship Restaurant Eve in Alexandria in 2004, Armstrong has amassed accolades for his modern American cuisine with French, Spanish and Irish influences. Dedicated to sourcing ingredients from local farms for both taste and sustainability, his Eat Good Food Group empire now includes Restaurant Eve, The Majestic, Virtue Feed & Grain and Eamonn’s. In January, he opened Society Fair, a European-style food emporium in Old Town Alexandria with a bakery, butchery, wine shop and chef demo kitchen.

Why the Pike?

We chose Penrose Square because it was a project being run by our main partner and friend, Mr. John Ariail, who sadly passed away last year. This was his pet project and we are happy to be a part of it. Additionally, it is a great location for Eamonn’s. It has the right population density and it is easily accessible to us from Old Town.

Career influences

My father and mother. Dinner growing up in our household was always a ritual, even on the weekdays. My father is a travel agent so we traveled all over Europe, eating indigenous food as we went. Professionally, Greggory Hill [formerly co-owner of David Greggory in the District] taught me the basics of the restaurant kitchen. Jeffrey Buben [owner and chef at Vidalia in D.C.] taught me how to work.

Go-to wine picks

My favorite red wine is Henri Bonneau Chateauneuf du Pape. My favorite white wine is Raveneau Chablis.

On food trends...

I dislike the term “trends.” Food often goes in cycles, like the seasons. We still have a lot to learn about food, the science of food and the physiology of taste.

Signature dish

I don’t really have a signature dish, but one of my favorite things to cook is sweetbreads. I’m not even that much of a fan of eating them, but they are a lot of fun to cook.

Dog-eared cookbook

The French Laundry Cookbook. It is a great reference for professionals and serious cooks, outlining many of the rules of modern cooking.

Fond childhood memory

Paella. I love the complex layers of flavors in this Spanish classic.

Flavor aversion

Cinnamon. It’s fine if it’s used as a seasoning in a dish, but I really hate when all you can taste is cinnamon, like bad apple pie or French toast.

App I can’t live without

Verizon Fios DVR Manager, to record TV shows I miss.

Walter Nicholls is Arlington Magazine’s food critic and also writes the “Home Plate” column in each issue.

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