Fall 2010 Dining Guide: 8 talents to know
Restaurant critic Tom Sietsema reveals eight D.C. dining insiders worth getting to know.
Meaza Zemedu, 53
Owner of Meaza Ethiopian Cuisine
The bakery adjoining
turns out possibly the area's best injera, the spongy and pleasantly sour pancake that doubles as a scoop for eating Ethiopian food. Think all injera tastes the same? Zemedu's product reveals otherwise, in part because it uses the expensive and delicate imported grain known as teff, which imparts a subtle nutty flavor to the bread. No wonder embassies and the World Bank turn to her for catered meals -- and no surprise competitors come to her when they're low on injera.
Septime Webre, 48
Artistic director of the Washington Ballet
Out of the studio, he coaches waiters and bellhops on how to use their bodies and become, as he puts it, "comfortable in their grace" with ballet warm-ups, stretches and even 19th-century mime gestures. Webre sees dining rooms and hotel lobbies as stage sets, and their workers as artists who "either add or detract from the experience" of their guests. "Gestures tell stories," says the ballet director, who has taught members of the staff of the
Inn at Little Washington
and the Hotel Palomar.
Chris Castle, 46
Director of special events at the
Inn at Little Washington
He's an ordained minister. That's a detail his hospitality colleagues didn't know back in 2000, when, as a server, the Southern Baptist first volunteered to marry some guests of the inn who wanted to elope but couldn't reach a justice of the peace. Since then, Castle has officiated at 111 unions: Christian, Jewish, Hindu -- even atheist. Most of the mergers take place across the street from the main manse, in the inn's intimate ballroom, where George Washington is said to have danced.
Victoria Vergason, 48
Owner of The Hour, a mid-century barware shop in Old Town
Here's where the area's top mixologists come to source silver-plated cocktail shakers, champagne saucers, glass recipe shakers and jiggers. "It makes my life easier. I don't have to scour antique stores anymore," says top mix-master Todd Thrasher of Restaurant Eve. A collector since college of glassware (and later bar items), the former international finance honcho launched her business last year after her husband told her, "You can keep buying if you start selling."
, 1015 King St., Alexandria. 703-224-4687.
Larry Calvert, 42
Owner of TouteSweets.com in Washington
A former Washington Post advertising executive turned cookie baker, Calvert makes fanciful customized treats that are as easy on the tongue as on the eye. His clients include Sotheby's International Realty, the management consulting firm Iron Horse Ventures, author Brian Haig and countless brides-to-be. Though most requests are traditional (cookies shaped like wedding dresses, baby bottles or company logos), he also has been asked to bake adult themes for bachelorette parties.
David Lankford, 61
Co-owner of Davon Crest Farm
His intensely flavored micro-greens and produce are some of the best available, evinced by their appearance at top tables including
"We cut during the day and deliver that night," says the former Air Force encryption equipment service specialist. "If a restaurant wants it any fresher, they have to grow it on their roof." Davon Crest's supply is superb but limited. The farm consists of a mere eight acres of fields and 12 greenhouses in Trappe, Md.
Davon Crest Farm
Bonji Beard, 41
and reservation-taker for the exclusive
The Howard University graduate has access to the toughest restaurant reservation in Washington -- and she says she can't be bribed. Tips for increasing one's chances for one of only six stools at Jose Andres's whimsical food lab: "Try calling on Sunday or Monday. We're closed, but we still take reservations." Calls are accepted at 10 a.m. sharp, and most reservations go within 10 minutes. Does it help to invoke the big guy's name? "Only if it's true."
Elliott Staren, 65
Owner since 1989 of Wide World of Wines
Looking for rare wines from the '40s, '50s and even earlier? Chances are, Staren can track them down for you. One of the wine merchant's proudest accomplishments was locating a case of Margaux -- from 1900 -- for late communications mogul Steve Ross. Just last month, a customer tasked Staren with finding, overnight, a case of 1982 Petrus. The cost: $48,000. "If you want it overnight," says Staren, "you can't barter."
Wide World of Wines
, 2201 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-333-7500.
The Fall 2010 Guide
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Fall 2010 Dining Guide
Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema discloses tips, tidbits and unknown talents in his Fall Dining Guide. Here is an inside look at some of this year's best spots.
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