Ask Tom: Annandale dining, restaurants serving Thanksgiving dinner and nicknames for young gourmands

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Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Food Critic
Wednesday, November 18, 2009; 11:00 AM

Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema discussed Annandale dining, restaurants serving Thanksgiving dinner and nicknames for young gourmands on Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 11 a.m. ET.

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Please submit your questions.

Washington, D.C.: The hubby wanted to try a three-star restaurant when we go to Paris next March. Then we saw the potential $800 price tag and thought better of it. Suggestions? And, oh yeah, to complicate things: I'm a vegetarian!

Tom Sietsema: I like to go to the top restaurants in Paris for lunch, when prices are (relatively) lower and you aren't heading straight to bed afterwards -- you know, so you can walk off the foie gras, the cheeses, the macaroons, etc.

Arpege, one of Paris's best restaurants, has a much-celebrated vegetarian menu that you might consider.

Good morning, everyone. Small house-keeping note: I won't be here next Wednesday, before Thanksgiving, but I'll be back Dec. 2 to address your comments and questions. Let's begin!

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Washington, D.C.: I was sorry to hear (via your Twitter account) that you had a disappointing dining experience in Palm Springs. Does that mean that there will be no Postcard? I'm going there in January and was hoping for some recommendations. I've enjoyed Lavender Bistro in the past.

Tom Sietsema: I vowed I wouldn't leave the desert without three good dining recommendations. You can read about them in this Sunday's Travel section.

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Farragut West: Hello. I just moved to an office near the Farragut West Metro Station. Where would you recommend that I try for lunch? How about dinner? Some places that are $$ or less please.

Tom Sietsema: For a good, inexpensive lunch within a several-block radius of FW, I like the Greek Deli (always a line), Nooshi, the bar menu at Spezie, the lunch-only burger at Morton's and that pan-Asian restaurant (Singapore something?) whose name escapes me at the moment.

washingtonpost.com: 2008 mini-review: Greek Deli and Catering

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Alexandria: As if you aren't busy enough now (reviews, chats, Dining Guide, Postcards, First Bite, etc.), may I please suggest another item for your professional plate?

Would you consider an article about the best NON-HOTEL restaurants for breakfast?

More and more, business meetings take place over breakfast. Guests, clients and tourists are always asking for the oportunity to get out of their hotel and see other parts of the area.

Such an article would be doing a great service to your readers. It would also provide the opportunity to spotlight another aspect (breakfast) of the outstanding restaurants in our city.

What do you think??

Tom Sietsema: Actually, I've addressed the breakfast question before, but only in D.C. proper. Thanks for reminding me to look into suburban eye-openers.

washingtonpost.com: November 2008 breakfast roundup: The bacon-and-eggs brigade

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Arlington, Va. (for now): We're moving soon from our apartment near Crystal City to a place in Annandale four miles from Seven Corners. While we'll certainly go back to the restaurant in Crystal City we fell in love with (cause who wouldn't love being able to walk into Jaleo on a Friday night with no reservations), we're trying to figure out what places will be our new favorites. Present is a given, but what're the place around there that can become regular-rotation places, good food for decent prices?

Tom Sietsema: Something to look forward to in your new environs: a rich buffet of Asian flavors. I'd start with the very good Han Gang (Korean) and A & J (Chinese small plates).

washingtonpost.com: 2009 Dining Guide: Han Gang and 2006 Dining Room: A and J in Annandale

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Bethesda, Md: Hey Tom, We've been to 5 or 6 of the restaurants in your most recent dining guide including Palena, Addie's and J&G, but the real winner has been Michael's Noodles in Rockville. We've been three weeks in a row and can't get enough! Having grown up in MoCo, I'm not sure how this place slipped through the cracks for me. Thanks for giving us our new 'regular' spot.

Tom Sietsema: You're welcome, and thanks for the feedback. Michael's Noodles is tucked away in its location, but it's certainly worth seeking out. I can still taste those crunchy peanuts tossed with chilies and tiny fish ... mmmm.

washingtonpost.com: 2009 Dining Guide: Michael's Noodles

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Washington, D.C.: Good Morning, Tom: I am a great fan of your chats and reviews. Thank you for all your hard work. I went to Restaurant Mio this past Saturday night. Turns out that they had brought in two chefs from Puerto Rico, Alfredo Ayala and Augusto Schreiner. The food was delicious. They started with a whole roasted pig. The meat melted in your mouth and the crackling was crunchy and tasty. Desserts included candied papaya and cocunut panacota. And all through the night the owner was going around the tables making sure everything was good. The owner is from Puerto Rico and they are thinking of featuring Puerto Rican specials every Friday night. I think I will be back. Thanks

Tom Sietsema: Maybe THIS is what Mio should be doing, full-time: Puerto Rican food.

I love roast pig, which you find served in the mountains around San Juan; the higher you go up the mountain, the fewer the tourists and the finer the spread.

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Dupont: I have an amusing anecdote to your Sou'wester review in which you relayed the server's response of "Oh" when you pointed out a problem. When I dined at CityZen recently, the sauce on an entree was very, very salty. When the server inquired how is everything, I mentioned the salty sauce. His response: "Ahh! I guess the chef overreduced the sauce." Then he turned and walked away. While the food overall was terrific, this is not the response one expects at a four-star establishment, and left a really negative impression.

Tom Sietsema: Interesting. I wonder if your comment made it back to the sauce station at CityZen?

(I SO wanted to like Sou'Wester!)

washingtonpost.com: This week's review: Sou'Wester

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Rockville, Md.: I'd like to believe I have two koodies myself. But will the term catch on? Not as long as it sounds like "cootie!"

Tom Sietsema: I concur!

The chatter is referring to today's discussion topic over at Sietsema's Table, in which young gourmets are billed as "koodies."

Does anyone like the term? Can anyone think of something better?

washingtonpost.com: Sietsema's Table: Replacing 'koodies' and 'foodies'

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Solo diner, Alexandria: I know this is late but maybe next week. As a frequent solo diner (female) if I make a reservation for one I expect there to be no comment from the restaurant as they should be on top of the reservations and know that yes -- it is one. If I go in without, I ask for a table for one at the start and usually this stops the irritating questions. Stop belittling the solo diners -- I'll spend my money elsewhere without hesitation.

Tom Sietsema: Thanks for the (good) suggestion. But I don't think most managers are "belittling" solo diners. They are simply reconfirming the number on the books.

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Chevy Chase: Hey Tom -- love your chats. Hope you are able to take my question today. Currently have a dilemma: We want to hold a dinner reception for 100 guests in Chevy Chase next February. We have been looking around for a local restaurant that offers a tasty menu. Money is of no object. Sophisticated atmosphere a huge plus. Which restaurant would you recommend? I checked the WaPo restaurant section and did not find any that fit our criteria.

Tom Sietsema: I guess you missed the news about Rock Creek in Mazza Gallerie turning into an events-only space?

washingtonpost.com: Washington's Rock Creek goes private

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Problem solved: Re the perennial question of how to address a group composed of both men and women, the time-honored, gender-neutral term for "guys" would be "folks." It's a warm synonym for "people," not "family."

Tom Sietsema: I like the tried and true "ladies and gentlemen," too.

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Bethesda, Md.: Hi Tom, I know it's last minute but where can I go to celebrate Thanksgiving? My plans to head home fell through and now I'm looking for a restaurant where it isn't too much of an amateur night. Bonus points if they offer more than the usual turkey dinner plate.

Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: I notice Charlie Palmer Steak, Vidalia, The Prime Rib, the new Kellari Taverna, Corduroy, Indeblue, Adour and 701 still have seats available for Thanksgiving. That's an eclectic start, right?

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Mt. Pleasant: Tom -- your comment last week about the authentically large portion sizes at Kellerai reminded me how immense servings could be at a proper taverna in Athens (where I was fortunate to spend a couple of months for work) and of a comment by an ex-pat journalist working there: "the only reason Jesus could feed so many people with just a few loaves and fishes, was that there were no Greeks in the crowd."

Tom Sietsema: Funny! Thanks for the chuckle.

washingtonpost.com: First Bite: Kellari Taverna

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Potomac Falls, Va.: Hey Tom! For those of your readers that don't want to bake on Thanksgiving but want the yeasty goodness of homemade rolls where would you suggest they go to purchase a dozen or two? Of course ordering ahead of time.

I will be making my own (yum! Thanks Grandma for the lessons!) but I always have friends ask where I buy mine and I have to tell them I make them myself and when they go to look for something similar they are at a loss.

So, suggestions?

Tom Sietsema: Best Buns Bakery in Arlington, owned by Great American Restaurants, has been my go-to source for rolls during holidays past. Any chatters care to weigh in?

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Kids: How about "gourmites"?

Tom Sietsema: I like it! I like it! But "gourmites" has the same problem as "koodies," in that it brings to mind something unpleasant, in this case termites. Or is that a stretch?

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Table 43 and seating requests...: To simplify things for your chatters. Making a seating request via telephone or online does not GRANT you that seat. As a general rule the better or more desired seating arrangements will go to the guests already waiting. We can't very well lock someone up in "Siberia" and then put a later party into the nicer empty table nearby. AND there is no guarantee that you may even show up in the first place. So the rule is, if you prefer special arrangements, be early!!!

Tom Sietsema: Right, for the most part. But in an story I've written for this Sunday's Magazine, on how to be a better diner, one restaurateur points out that the clock for a 6 o'clock reservation (or whatever time) doesn't start ticking until that time. In other words, the table may not be ready for you earlier.

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Koodies!: I prefer Gastronaut instead of Foodie. Foodie reminds me of Yuppie. Koodie falls in the same category. So, Gastrocadet? Now, if it is misinterpreted as Spacecadet we will have a whole new chat topic. Thanks for listening.

Tom Sietsema: Gastrocadet sounds like an absent-minded koodie.

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Kid Foodies: how about fiddies (altho Fify Cent might not like it) or kidoodies?

Tom Sietsema: Hmmm. These sound like new flavors of Girl Scout cookies, no?

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Re: Rock Creek in Mazza Gallerie: Tom,

As I'm planning a wedding, I was excited to see your post about Rock Creek turning into an events only space. I emailed the resturant the day after your first post. I called to follow up a week later. After having that email ignored and the phone call not returned, I won't be considering the space. If they plan on making their money from events, they should really work on customer service - starting with returning emails and phone calls!

Tom Sietsema: Paging the owners! Paging the owners!

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Kids: Gastro-tots?

Tom Sietsema: Cute.

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re:Problem solved.: But someone complained about being referred to as "Ladies." Which I still can't find a substitute for. (Was that Gene???)

Tom Sietsema: And the problem with "ladies" would be ..?

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K Street : Tom, I was wondering if you had gotten any response from Eric Ziebold following your less than stellar review of Sou'Wester. He's become such a fixture on our dining scene here, he must have been at least a little embarrassed.

Tom Sietsema: Not a peep.

It's funny who calls and who doesn't. I never expect a chef or restaurateur to follow up on my reviews of their work, but those that do are very often those who get less-than-flattering reviews.

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Washington, D.C.: What is your favorite place for happy hour?

Tom Sietsema: The Source is a place I have enjoyed more than a few times in the past few years. But honestly, I tend to go straight to dinner after I leave my office most nights.

Where do *you* like to go for happy hour?

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Table for One: I have to say, Tom, I don't understand why diners who eat alone (male or female) are so sensitive about it. I'm a 28 year old woman. I dine alone fairly frequently, whether it be while traveling or because my hubby doesn't like a certain cuisine. Never once have I been made to feel uncomfortable... but then again, I feel totally comfortable myself eating by myself at a table or at the bar. Sometimes, it's just all in your head. Don't hold yourself back from having a perfectly delicious experience just because you're worried about what others think!

Tom Sietsema: Right on! I think going in with a positive attitude, anticipating a good meal, is the best way to approach a restaurant (regardless of the number in your party).

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Southern Pines: I would call kids in a restaurant "Unwelcome".

Sorry.

Bah Humbug

Tom Sietsema: Aw, come on!

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Richmond, Va.: Yoodies (young foodies, sounds like youth)

Tom Sietsema: Smacks of a cult!

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Young food lovers: Gourmettes!

Tom Sietsema: Ha, ha, ha. Good one!

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Arlington, Va.: Ladies reminds me of the old joke about a Scotsman who got into trouble because he thought the sign spelled Laddies. A female friend mine was embarrassed in Munich because thought Herren on the bathroom referred to Her.

Tom Sietsema: For those who don't read German, "Herren" is the word for gentlemen.

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Washington, D.C.: Mazu at 11th and New York is my favorite Happy Hour in D.C. $5 menu includes large kirens, a selection of cocktails, great tuna rolls. That and it lasts until 8pm.

Tom Sietsema: I always forget about that spot. Thanks for the mini-review.

washingtonpost.com: December 2008 mini-review: Mazu

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Foggy Bottom: How about the Milton Berle greeting of "Ladies and germs"? If you're in a lovely French restaurant it would be "mesdames et microbes."

Tom Sietsema: Spunky group today.

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Rockville, Md.: Wanted to share my wonderful birthday story. My husband and I went to Volt this summer and loved it so much we made reservations for last Friday night to celebrate my birthday. My husband excused himself and after he came back he was served his egg dish. I was completely star struck when I looked up and saw Bryan Boltaggio grating fresh truffles over his dish! My husband had asked him to stop by and he was charming. Then, as we were leaving the restaurant, he was at the door saying goodbye to guests. I told him that my husband and I had raved about the beet macaroons we had had at our previous dinner and that was the only point we disagreed with you, Tom, on your review. He asked if we had a moment (there were six of us) and went back into the kitchen and whipped up a batch of the beet macaroons! I'm still smiling about the whole experience.

Tom Sietsema: How very gracious! The Hollywood-handsome Mr. Voltaggio has a very good thing going at Volt.

washingtonpost.com: 2009 Dining Guide: Volt's Table 21

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San Francisco: Just a quick little question. What is your favorite dim sum place in San Francisco? Heading there for the holidays and want to make sure I don't miss it!

Tom Sietsema: Regular readers know my two words of advice for dim sum in SF: Yank Sing.

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Reston, Va: What's the policy on asking the server -- if it wouldn't be any trouble, and IF the timing worked out -- to swing by our table with a particular dish we're interested in seeing from the menu so we could take a peek at it for a few seconds? Specifically, we were at Jackson's and wanted to see what their sushi rolls looked like, since, Jackson's isn't a sushi place but we wanted to see their take, and they do a lot of other things well.

We didn't ask, but it got me to wondering -- would other diners mind me eyeballing their food?

Tom Sietsema: Congratulations. You are the first person to ever ask me this question. It's an interesting one.

With a few caveats, I see no problem in asking to take a look at a dish, although, as you state, the timing might not work out (i.e., someone else might not have ordered a sushi roll around the time you're curious to see it).

I also presume you wouldn't want to do more than glance at the dish you're curious about -- no poking or prodding, in other words. Keep in mind that some dishes are time-sensitive; a souffle, for instance, needs to be served fairly quickly.

Let's throw the question to today's audience: How do you feel about your food being paraded before strangers?

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washingtonpost.com: Remember, you have until 5 p.m. on Friday to enter the Dine With Tom contest! Check out the official rules here and then upload your photo here. Beginning Nov. 30, we'll ask readers to vote for one of ten finalists. The top vote-getter scores dinner for two with Tom.

washingtonpost.com: Remember, you have until 5 p.m. on Friday to enter the Dine With Tom contest! Check out the official rules here and then upload your photo here. Beginning Nov. 30, we'll ask readers to vote for one of ten finalists. The top vote-getter scores dinner for two with Tom.

Tom Sietsema: I love the photos that are coming in, from all sorts of people and all kinds of restaurants. Can't wait to see who readers pick for me to take along on a restaurant review!

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For Annandale: The new Annandale residents should try the lovely Afghan restaurant Bamian at Baileys Cross Roads and the terrific Chinese carryout Hong Kong Express at Barcroft Plaza -- I especially love their soups!

Tom Sietsema: Yes! I'm a fan of Bamian as well.

washingtonpost.com: 2009 Dining Guide: Bamian

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Alexandria, Va.: Ok, so I know you tip 20 percent before tax at a restaurant. My question is, how much do you tip the delivery guy when you call for food?

Tom Sietsema: I don't have a lot delivered to my condo, which I *love* save for the fact my building doesn't have an elevator -- and I live on the top (fourth) floor. The guy who delivers my wine gets $10; the Chinese restaurant that I occasionally order out from gets at least $5.

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Alexandria, Va.: On Saturday, we are having a ladies' lunch in the Dupont. The only preference is that the restaurant is near the metro. Any suggestions? We've already been to Pizzeria Paradiso.

Tom Sietsema: What about the charming Tabard Inn?

washingtonpost.com: 2009 Fall Dining Guide: Tabard Inn

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Fort Bragg: How 'bout Brats!

Tom Sietsema: Boo! Hiss!

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SW, D.C.: For the person working around Faragut West, try Havana Cafe in the International Square building. Some of the best cuban I have ever had, and affordable! There's also a Five Guys down there if that's more the questioner's speed.

Tom Sietsema: Thanks for the suggestions.

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Henny Youngman: Ladies and Germs was a Henny Youngman line.

Tom Sietsema: I love fact-checkers.

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Arlington, Va.: Gourminnies?

Tom Sietsema: I like it.

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Just say no to silly nicknames: A young gourmet is a young gourmet. Please end the trend of making up cute and needless neologisms.

Tom Sietsema: Cold water just got poured all over this chat. ;(

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Parading Food, Va.: If someone wants to see their food selections before ordering, may I suggest McDonald's, Denny's, or the Chinese takeout place down the street. Live a little, order sight unseen and don't parade my food in front of strangers like a poodle in a dog show.

Tom Sietsema: One food lover's take on the matter.

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Farragut West: For lunch near FW, don't forget Nirvana.

Tom Sietsema: Of course. The daily-changing vegetarian buffet is a bargain, and quite tasty.

washingtonpost.com: 2005 Dining Guide: Nirvana

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Washington, D.C.: Tom, I'm looking to take my wife out to dinner after we see the National Christmas tree lighting on the Ellipse. In past years we've gone to Central. I'm thinking J&G, Brasserie Beck, or (because the wife's never been) Fogo de Chao. What would you recommend? Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: I have had some great food and service at J & G since it opened, but you might want to consider Cafe du Parc, too, which is even closer to the lighting ceremony.

washingtonpost.com: 2009 Dining Guide: J and G

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Washington, D.C.: Tom --

I read your chats every week, but have never asked a question so hopefully you'll help me out. I have a friend who is coming to the D.C. area for three months and she is trying out the city to see if she wants to make the move permanent. As she is one of my good friends, I'd like to seal the deal by giving her five good restaurants to go to that exemplify D.C. They all have to be Metro-accessible as she won't have a car. Will you help? A variety of price points is fine (though leaning towards more reasonable). I know Rasika is on the list (as she is a huge fan of Indian) but I'd love your help with the other four. Thanks!

Tom Sietsema: (The pressure! The pressure!)

This season, and in no particular order, I'd steer your friend to the bar and a burger at Palena in Cleveland Park; to Sushi Taro for the obvious in Dupont Circle; to Seventh Hill on Capitol Hill for a pint and some pizza; and to Masa 14 for small plates of fusion food in Logan Circle. Rasika in Penn Quarter brings the number to five, and hopefully seals the deal.

P.S. Let us know how this story ends, OK?

washingtonpost.com: First Bite: Seventh Hill Pizza

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My building doesn't have an elevator -- and I live on the top (fourth) floor.: Do you meet them in the lobby, or do they climb three flights?

Tom Sietsema: They climb!

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Bethesda, Md.: Hi Tom, My husband and I are taking a much-needed vacation to the Naples/Fort Myers area next month (assuming our flu clears up!). We would love to get suggestions from you and the chatters for good restaurants, especially since our resort apparently is not meal-worthy. Thanks, love your chats!

Tom Sietsema: I just called my mom, a good cook who has a place near Naples in Bonita Springs. She and her friends like to go to -- forgive my spelling here, I didn't get a chance to look up anything -- Cappanello's, Blue Provence and Brioc.

Bonita Springs is more of a wasteland, she says, although First Watch is good for breakfast and Silver Spoon is decent for lunch.

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Washington, D.C.: In the November 9 New Yorker story about L.A. food critic Jonathan Gold, there is mention of "Robert Sietsema, who is the food critic for the Village Voice." Is he a relative? And if so, where does HE like to eat when in D.C.?

Tom Sietsema: Robert Sietsema and I share only an unusual name and an odd profession (we both get paid to *eat,* after all).

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Alexandria, Va.: Tom -- Please take my question! I was even good an submitted it prior to the start of the chat!

Prior to a 9:30 show at the Kennedy Center Saturday night -- is keeping our reservation at Bourbon Steak? We've done Marcel's. My husband loves seafood, so I thought that Bourbon was a good choice, based on your review.

Thanks - love, love, love the chats!!!

Tom Sietsema: As the clock is ticking down: Stick with Bourbon Steak!

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Portland, Oreg.: Parading of food - Right off the bat, I don't like the idea. Either the restaurant needs to dfo a better job of describing the dish, or the diner needs a better imagination!

Tom Sietsema: And that concludes today's chat. Thanks for showing up, giving me a laugh and let's do it again Dec. 2.

Finally, have a four-star Thanksgiving next week, everyone.

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A veteran food writer, Sietsema has worked as a critic in Washington, Seattle, San Francisco and Milwaukee and covers the local scene in his Dining, First Bite and Dish columns and moderates the Sietsema's Table discussion group. Find all of Tom Sietsema's Washington Post writing at washingtonpost.com/tomsietsema. Join his live Q&A every Wednesday at 11 a.m. ET.

Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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