THE MAITRE d' thinks they are undependable. The kitchen sees them as indiscriminating. And the regulars of Washington's most sought-after restaurants, who are worrying about having to brown bag lunches for the next five days, consider them intrusive. They are the OTOs, or the One-Time-Only customers who are expected to flood local restaurants during inauguration week.
Mo Sussman of Joe and Mo's restaurant (which has become an OTO gathering place) likens the coming week to dining-out on New Year's Eve -- but for seven nights in a row. "Inauguration week is a killer in the restaurant business," he said.
To accommodate next week's influx of eaters, restaurants are planning ahead. Some will open earlier, some will stay open later. Several are changing their schedules and will be open this Sunday. According to the maitre d' at Harvey's, that restaurant is staying open all afternoon on Inauguration Day for late lunchers and for those who "come in for coffee and the restrooms."
Some restaurants are even changing their menus. 209 1/2 is featuring an inaugural menu with entries ranging from Chicken San Cruz and Rodeo Drive Salad, to Shrimp "1600" and Cabinet Pudding.A dish was almost named after Nancy Reagan as part of Sans Souci's special inaugural meals, but according to assistant manager Michelle Roubieu, the owners felt that would be using her name improperly; besides, the first lady has never eaten there. At The Broker, a dinner on the 20th for 50 people will include fresh salmon from the West Coast. Le Pavillon, a restaurant deluged with reservations via long-distance calls from California, is adding several California wines to its list.
Alex Inglese, owner of Alexander's III rooftop restaurant in Rosslyn, feels his big band records will be especially popular inaugural evening since the disc jockey features Frank Sinatra oldies.
But most restaurants are staying apolitical. "We're going to do just what we've been doing -- no red, white and blue desserts," said Steven Damato of Nora's restaurant. "Even the libertarians will like it, if we have good food."
Regulars are getting priority in some restaurants. Seats are being set aside for their last-minute needs, while "first come -- first served" is often the rule for outsiders.
"We don't want our regulars getting hurt," said Sussman of Joe and Mo's. "We want to make sure the boys and girls in Washington are being taken care of."
Jean-Pierre Goyenvalle of Le Lion d'Or plans to reserve a few tables for his frequent customers. But as the week approaches, "no reservations available" may be his response, even to callers who drop names of the VIPs in their prospective groups. "If we have a table, we use it, if we don't, we don't," said Goyenvalle.
Although most reservations are being made in individuals' names, many are for large corporations -- with large parties of 10 to 20 or more. Local corporations escorting their affiliates from other cities to their regular expense-account hangouts will have their places assured, though through a roundabout route.
Last-minute inundation, most restaurants agree, will make up the greatest chunk of their business. But much, particularly when the party is a large one, has been premeditated. One restaurant received an out-of-town inquiry from a corporation the day after the election, and others were getting calls soon after Thanksgiving. And as early as last month, rumor had it that some restaurants were accepting reservations from no one below Cabinet level.
The Foggy Bottom Cafe is serving breakfast to Jane Pauley and Tom Brokaw and the entire NBC "Today Show" staff at 4 a.m. on inaugural morning. Nothing fancy, though -- probably just eggs, coffee, croissants and maybe bacon, reports the manager. At Dominique's, Exxon, IBM, General Motors, Martin Marietta and a private party of 150 with the public relations firm of D.J. Edelman Co., have reserved in advance. 209 1/2 has reservations for the Republican National Committee, and The Broker is expecting "very, very important parties." Le Pavillon expects high-level politicos -- "some of the biggies." p
The transition team and Inaugural Committee staffers themselves may have a hard time breaking for congratulatory lunches, since the week of the 19th could be their toughest.
"We're going to be working, at events, or sleeping," said one Inaugural Committee staffer. "Like now, we eat at our desks, we answer phones with our mouths full and everyone leaves with indigestion."
When the out-of-town guests arrive, there will be hospitality booths set up in hotels, airports and other strategic spots. Pamphlets will be distributed indexing locations and cuisines of several hundred restaurants in the metropolitan area. No recommendations will be given, says Tom Marshall, assistant to the director of the hospitality committee; just listings.
Many restaurants are requiring reservation verification since parties, especially from out of town, tend to reserve spaces at two or three different restaurants. At Dominique's, four people will be dialing for three days making the necessary 450 to 600 verification calls.
What will the non-OTOs, VIPs, restaurant regulars, corporate affiliates, Inaugural Committee staffers and celebrity seekers be doing next week?
"Eating big breakfasts," says one local.
If you do get hungry for dinner, though, here are some recipes to cook at home. And bag the leftovers for lunch. LE PAVILLON'S JOUE DE ROUGET MARINIEE AU GINGEMBRE ET COULIS D'AVOCAT (Cheek of Red Snapper with Ginger and Avocado Sauce) (4 appetizer servings) 12 cheeks of red snapper or a 1-pound red snapper filet, cut into small diamond shapes (reserve bones if making bouillon below) 1 green onion, finely chopped 1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, julienned 1 teaspoon olive oil Pinch of salt, or to taste 1 tablespoon white wine Sause: 2 ripe avocados, green part only 1 tomato, skinned and seeded 3 tarragon leaves, fresh only or omit 1 green onion, diced 2 watercress branches 1 tablespoon sherry wine vinegar 2 to 3 tablespoons mayonnaise 1 cup chicken bouillon or fish bouillon made from the red snapper bones, at room temperature
Mix together red snapper, onion, ginger root, olive oil. Add salt. Marinate for 10 minutes.
Place wine in a baking dish and add fish mixture. Cover well with aluminum foil and cook in a 375-degree oven for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and refrigerate for 3 to 4 minutes, or until room temperature.
To make the sauce, puree all sauce ingredients together except the mayonnaise and bouillon. Add the mayonnaise and mix. Add the room-temperature bouillon slowly to the puree. The sauce should not be a sticky consistency, although it should be not too thin. Place fish mixture on plate and pour sauce on top. THE BROKER'S SWISS EMMENTHALER SOUFFLE BREAD (Makes 1 loaf or 4 4-ounces souffle cups) 2 cups bread flour 1 package yeast, dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon sugar 1 cup grated Swiss emmenthaler cheese 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese Topping: 3 thinly sliced pieces emmenthaler cheese 1 teaspoon grated parmesan cheese
Combine approximately 1/3 of the flour with yeast, salt, sugar and water.Stir the dough for 1 minute, then add remainder of the flour. Knead until smooth. Fold in the cheeses and knead for 1 minute more. Remove dough from bowl and mold according to shape of pan. Place dough in 1-pound loaf pan or 4 souffle cups and cover and a cloth. Place in a warm area and let the dough rise 1 inch above the pan.
Bake at 310 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes until golden brown. When golden brown, top with sliced emmenthaler and sprinkle with grated parmesan. Keep the bread in the oven until the cheeses melt slightly. remove from oven and serve piping hot. DOMINIQUE'S CRAB SOUP (4 servings) 1 stick butter 1/2 small onion, diced 3/4 cup celery, diced 8 teaspoons red pepper, diced 8 teaspoons green pepper, diced 6 tablespoons flour 2 cups fish or chicken stock, fresh or canned 2 cups milk 1 cup light cream 1/4 cup sherry Salt and pepper to taste 6 ounces lump crabmeat
Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions, celery and red and green pepper. Cook slowly, stirring from time to time, until vegetables are tender but not brown. Remove from heat and add flour, blending well. Return to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until flour is golden brown. Remove from head and transfer to saucerpan or soup pot. Gradually add fish or chicken stock, stirring with a whisk to eliminate lumps. Add milk, cream and sherry. Stir well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Return soup to stove and simmer for 5 minutes. Check consistency to make sure soup is creamy, but not too thick. If it is too thick, add more stock until proper consistency is reached. Add crabmeat, stirring slowly with a spoon, taking care not to break lumps of crabmeat.Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot. LE LION D'OR'S POULET AU POIVRE (4 servings) 4 tablespoons white raisins 2 tablespoons cognac 2 2-pound chickens, cut into parts and boned Salt to taste 3 tablespoons black peppercorns, or to taste 4 tablespoon butter 1/4 cup brown stock
Blanch raisins for 5 minutes. Drain them and marinate in cognac for 2 hours or more. Meanwhile, season chicken with salt. Coarsely crack the peppercorns and press onto the surface of the chicken. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a pan and when hot, add chicken. Brown chicken on both sides for 5 minutes each. Cover the pan and continue the cooking in the oven at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.
After chicken has cooked, remove it from the pan and discard the fat. Return the chicken to the pan and flambe it with the mixture of raisins and cognac, warmed first so it will flame easily.
Remove the chicken and place on serving dish, leaving the raisins in the pan. Add stock to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Adjust for seasoning. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of the butter to the pan and remove from heat. Stir just until the butter melts and turns the sauce shiny. Pour over chicken and serve.
Serve with fresh noodles. 209 1/2's CABINET PUDDING (6 to 8 servings) Creme Anglaise: 3 cups heavy cream 4 eggs 2 eggs yolks 1/3 cup sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract Pudding: 1/2 9-by-5 inch sponge or pound cake (209 1/2 uses Maida Haiter's sponge cake recipe from her "Book of Great Desserts") 1/3 cup amontillado sherry 1/3 cup strawberry jam 1/3 cup currants Topping: Lightly whipped cream sliced fresh fruits Nuts
To prepare the creme anglaise, heat heavy cream over low flame to warm it. While cream heats, beat with an electric mixer eggs, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla for 3 to 5 minutes, until thick and pale.
When cream is warm, stir it gradually into egg mixture and mix throughly. Pour entire mixture into the top of a double boiler, over barely simmering water.Heat mixture, stirring, until thick or until it coats a spoon heavily. Remove from heat and place top of double boiler (with mixture) in a bowl of ice. The pot should rest in the bowl so that only the bottom of the pot touches the ice. Whisk the egg and cream mixture over the ice until it cools. It may then be refrigerated until ready to use for pudding.
Divide the halved sponge cake into 3 layers with a serrated knife. Place the bottom layer in a bowl. Drizzle with 1/3 of the sherry. Spread 1/3 of the strawberry jam on top of the sherry. Repeat layering process 2 more times until all the sherry and jam have been used.
Pour the cold creme anglaise over the cake and dot the top with the currants.Refrigerate for 2 hours to begin forming pudding consistency.
After removing bowl from refrigerator, hold a fork and spoon back-to-back and roughly dislodge 5 or 6 masses of the cake mixture.
Return to the refrigerator for another 2 hours, or leave it overnight to improve taste. When refrigeration is finished, pudding should look gooey and wet. When ready to eat, spoon out portions and place in clear wine goblets. Top with lightly whipped cream and sliced fresh fruits and nuts.