When it's cold outside: Eat a hearty meal

ACKC's varieties of hot chocolate include, clockwise from top, the Bette Davis, the Liz Taylor, the Carmen Miranda and the Doris Day.
ACKC's varieties of hot chocolate include, clockwise from top, the Bette Davis, the Liz Taylor, the Carmen Miranda and the Doris Day. (James M. Thresher For The Washington Post)
Friday, January 22, 2010

When it's cold, these hearty dishes have the power to warm from within.

For many cafes, hot chocolate is an afterthought. Not so at the ACKC shops in Alexandria and the District. Here, cocoa comes in 12 variations, each named after a leading lady of stage or screen ($4.25-$4.95). The Liz Taylor is sophisticated, infused with lavender syrup and topped with crushed pistachios. Fiery chipotle flavors pulse through the Lucy, a beverage that's piled with whipped cream and dusted with cinnamon.

ACKC. 1529C 14th St. NW. 202-387-2626. 2003A Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. 703-635-7917. http://www.thecocoagallery.com.

"I think it's one of the first things that comes to mind when you think of classic American comfort food," says Firefly chef Daniel Bortnick of his mini pot roast dish, available on the dinner menu for $28. After three days of prep (and 18 to 20 minutes of cooking time once you order), the thick cut of boneless short rib arrives on a cast-iron platter with mashed potatoes, cooked carrots, roasted shallots and a sweet sauce made from veal stock.

Firefly. 1310 New Hampshire Ave. NW. 202-861-1310. http://www.firefly-dc.com.

Ris Lacoste's new restaurant, Ris, has been open only six weeks, but the chicken pot pie has already gone through a few costume changes. The chef was fond of a double-crust version (on the top and bottom), but the presentation was a challenge and some patrons complained about too much pastry. She then tried a version with just one flaky layer atop a bowl filled with a stew of chicken, carrots, onions, potatoes and celery. Predictably, guests are now clamoring for more pastry. The crust situation may be in flux, but one thing is certain: The dish is served with a sherry-infused roast chicken gravy for $18. It helps keep the pie moist, Lacoste says.

Ris. 2275 L St. NW. 202-730-2500. http://www.risdc.com.

Chef Gillian Clark's chili isn't the spiciest rendition of the Southwestern classic, but it has a robustness one can appreciate on a cold day and feels right at home in the country-chic dining room of the General Store. Every bite yields a large bean or spoonful of ground beef that has been cooked for about an hour and a half, says the chef, to the point of soft disintegration upon contact with your mouth. A buttery slice of house-made corn bread complements the $8 dish with its coarse texture.

General Store. 6 Post Office Rd., Silver Spring. 301-562-8787.

One of the owners of McGinty's Public House hails from Wexford, Ireland, which is why Wexford lamb stew graces the menu at the pub's locations in Arlington and Silver Spring ($16 and $16.50, respectively). Hunks of long-simmered lamb, potato and carrot are dressed in a thick gravy that has been gussied up with bay leaf and thyme. A child's meal is free with the purchase of an adult entree at the Arlington location from 5 to 9 p.m. on Saturdays.

McGinty's Public House. .

911 Ellsworth Dr., Silver Spring. 301-587-1270. 3650 S. Glebe Rd., Arlington. 703-414-3555. http://www.mcgintyspublichouse.com.

-- Julia Beizer

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