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Restaurant Eve chef Cathal Armstrong knows the way to a woman's heart. He made wife Meshelle a memorable dinner after they met 15 years ago.
Restaurant Eve chef Cathal Armstrong knows the way to a woman's heart. He made wife Meshelle a memorable dinner after they met 15 years ago. (Copyright Matthew Worden)

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By Ellen McCarthy
Friday, February 9, 2007

Peanut butter, pasta and chicken.

Three ingredients not exactly known for aphrodisiac potency, but Cathal Armstrong made them work.

He was 22 and it was 3 a.m. The girl he'd started to adore was hungry, so the young Irish chef made dinner: a peanut butter pasta chicken dinner.

"I'll never forget that. And we sat on the couch. I was just, like, floored," says his wife, Meshelle. "It was delicious."

"You should make that again sometime," she adds, maybe only half kidding.

But if the late-night concoction aroused lust, it was a singular vision that ignited a deeper love. The two met 15 years ago at the front of a now-defunct Adams Morgan restaurant called Cities. She managed, he was stationed at the pizza bar. At a post-work cocktail session, they both realized they were scheming for more.

"The restaurant business, I knew, was going to be my life," she recalls. "I had a goal. I said, 'I'm going to own a restaurant business one day.' He wanted to be one of the best chefs in the country. And he was just so passionate about his learning and what he wanted to do."

There were two formal dates, and then Meshelle, also 22 and just getting out of another relationship, moved into Cathal's apartment. His plans to return to Ireland after three months were derailed. Their newly conjoined plans to flourish in the restaurant industry were just getting on track. Today the couple owns three establishments in Alexandria: Restaurant Eve, Eamonn's -- A Dublin Chipper and PX. Last year Food & Wine magazine named Armstrong one of the best new chefs of 2006.

"If I do something, I gotta do it to the fullest extent of my ability," the chef says. "That's probably a big thing because Meshelle's the same way. If she's gonna do something, it's gotta be all the way to perfection. Otherwise . . . what's the point?"

College Sweethearts

First day, first semester, freshman year.

"He was the very first person I spoke to," Mistye Ruffin recalls of move-in day at the University of Tulsa in 1995. "I'd never seen anybody that tall. My dad is 6-5, but he was quite a bit taller than my dad. So, of course, the first question is what everybody asks him: 'Do you play basketball?' And Michael, being as quiet as he is, his answer was just, 'Yes.' "

He did and does still, as a forward with the Washington Wizards.


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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