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Stolen Steaks!

And Other Tales Of Dining Out in the City

By Walter Nicholls and Candy Sagon
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, August 25, 2004; Page F01

Whoa. August is almost over? Summer is ending? How did this happen so fast?

There's only one thing to do: Run, do not walk, to your favorite restaurant and enjoy the last of summer's bounty. Local tomatoes, soft-shell crabs, peach cobbler, cold soups . . . they're all coming off the menu soon, say a sampling of area chefs.



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Of course, fall's bounty is looking pretty good, too. As the days start to cool at the end of September, the chefs say their fall menu plans include lots of bison, ostrich and game birds such as squab, woodcock and pheasant. Braising, slow-roasting, even slow-poaching in olive oil for meaty fish such as salmon and halibut, also should be showing up on menus soon.

In the meantime, enjoy summer's final balmy days as chefs talk about their favorite dishes of the season (and some of them dish about the season's funniest customer stories):

CAROLE GREENWOOD

Buck's Fishing & Camping, UpperNorthwest

Best thing she ate this summer: "At Les Pyrenees hotel in the Basque region of France, I had an amazing seared foie gras with a caramelized sauce made with butter, sugar and strong vinegar with raspberries and peaches with the pits. Cooking the sauce with the pits gives it a completely different taste."

Coming off the summer menu: Grilled shrimp with grits, deviled eggs, ice cream sundaes.

Coming on the menu for fall: A St. Mary's shrimp stew made with fennel, leeks and white wine.

Sleeper hit of the summer: Rabbit. "It used to be that only the more sophisticated or adventurous customers ordered it. Now it's much more popular."

Customer story of the summer: On a very busy night, a couple orders steak and a lobster dish. Before the food arrives, they have a terrible fight. The woman, in tears, runs out the door. Moments later the entrees arrive, he pays the check and follows her out the door. As the waiters watch, a woman at a nearby table reaches over and stabs the steak with her fork and brings it over to her plate. She eats the entire steak, but not before complaining to a waiter that it's too salty.

TODD GRAY

Equinox, Downtown

Best thing he ate this summer: "Down at my parents' house on the lower [Chesapeake] Bay, very fresh and unbelievable sugar toads -- the local blowfish -- lightly floured and seasoned with my bay spice, parsley, butter and lemon."

Coming off the summer menu: Chilled melon soup with crab and caviar.

Coming on the fall menu: Black-eyed peas, local beans, late-summer stone fruit, lots of chanterelle mushrooms.

Sleeper hit of the summer: "Foie gras was out of control in the dead of summer when it's not usually a mover. A blue cheese course outsold both goat and pecorino. I never expected that."

Customer story of the summer: "A group of local clergy, back in the private dining room, had been drinking pretty heavily all night. They got up on the chairs and started singing hymns. The other customers thought it was a riot."

ROBERT WIEDMAIER

Marcel's, West End


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