Runaway Spoon

International Chefs Take You Elsewhere Without A Plane Ticket

April 11, 2012

Consider it musical chairs, culinary style. 

Every few months, Chef Richard Sandoval and his business partner, the famous operatic Maestro Placido Domingo, shake up the menu at Zengo with new fusion dishes that meld the flavors of Latin and Asian foods and spirits.
This time around it’s a combination of Hanoi and Havana that tickles the palates.

On Tuesday at a tasting, Sandoval and his chefs introduced their new small plates for the season, which included mysterious but delightful offerings such as cangrejo enchilado, morcillas, cha ca thang long, lemongrass arroz con pollo, lechon asado vermicelli and Hanoi pandan waffles.

Zengo in D.C. (Photo by: Noah Fecks) Zengo in D.C.

Not a loser in the Hanoi-Havana bunch, even if the diners’ pronunciations strayed a bit off the mark.  Or -  what may have tripped up the tongue were the deliciously sweet specialty cocktails: lemongrass-lychee mojito, cereza daiquiri and boba cafecito.

The menu is available through June 30. Zengo – which means “give and take” in Japanese -- is at 781 Seventh Street NW, next to the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro entrance. Tel: 202.393.2929. 

It’s worth a trip from Georgetown -- and definitely cheaper than buying round-trip airline tickets to Cuba or Vietnam.  A word to the sound sensitive: don’t be put off by the first floor lounge where the decibels attack.   Beat it upstairs to the main dining room where the acoustics are mellow and you can talk across the table without having to shout.
If you happen to be traveling to Miami, stop by their new restaurant there. Carlos Rodriguez, general manager of Zengo, says it will be opening in a few weeks. Sandoval’s stable of restaurants encircle the globe including in places such as Qatar, Dubai, Mexico, New York, Las Vegas, Denver and Scottsdale.

And thinking of food, travel and clever promotion:  At the Cherry Blossom Festival, a colleague registered to win a Lincoln and was given a card with numbers.  She would win two gift certificates to a Jose Andres restaurant of her choice if she punched those numbers into a combination car lock, and the door opened. 

“Not me, I’m not lucky,” she lamented. “The only time I won anything was as a teenager in Austria when I won just a few Schillings in some little ol’ drawing."

Lightening stuck again.

The car door popped open.

“It isn’t the megabucks lottery,” she later laughed. “But, oh, how sweet it is.”
Andres owns Zaytinya, Jaleo, Minibar, Café Atlantico and others.

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A Museum That's Still A Gleam in the Eye of Women

April 4, 2012

The still-yearned-for actual bricks-and-mortar structure of a National Women’s History Museum in D.C. received moral support as former California Congresswoman Jane Harman, Bermuda’s former premier Dame Pamela Gordon-Banks and other notable women personalities touted the venture at a reception Tuesday night.

Jan Du Plain (left), Jane Harman, Susan Blumenthal & Virginia E. Hayes Williams (Photo by: Natalia Janetti) Jan Du Plain (left), Jane Harman, Susan Blumenthal & Virginia E. Hayes Williams

Harman encouraged the project as upwards of 100 women gathered at the home of Judith Terra, chairman of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

“I promise you it will happen; how fast it will happen is up to us,” said Harman, the first female top executive for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She said she looks forward to a strong partnership between the center and the museum.

As an example of such a team, Harman pointed to the relatively new partnership between the international center and the Council of Women World Leaders, headed by secretary general Laura A. Liswood.

Writer Eleanor Clift (Photo by: Natalia Janetti) Writer Eleanor Clift

Museum President Joan Bradley Wages said Congress has before it legislation to build the museum “on the national mall or close to it” and she is hopeful of passage soon.

The museum idea boasts an impressively long list of board members and backers that includes members of Congress, businesspeople and celebrities. Meryl Streep, who this year won the Academy Award for best actress in a leading role for her portrayal of Dame Margaret Thatcher in Iron Lady, is the national spokeswoman for the museum.

Caribbean social and political trailblazer Gordon-Banks, former premier of Bermuda and Harman’s longtime friend, made a special trip to D.C. to throw her support behind the museum project.  When Gordon-Banks was sworn in as premier in 1997, she became the island’s first female leader and the youngest in its four-century-long status as a British colony.   She also is Terra’s daughter-in-law.

Carol Schwartz (Photo by: Natalia Janetti) Carol Schwartz

Among those attending were familiar media and political faces including Susan Blumenthal, former U.S. assistant surgeon general; Botswana’s Ambassador to the U.S. Tebelelo Seretse; former D.C. City Councilwoman at-large Carol Schwartz; Mahani Abu Zar, wife of the ambassador of Brunei; Kate Irwin, Coca-Cola’s diplomatic relations representative; museum promoter Jan Du Plain; Eleanor Clift, writer for Newsweek/The Daily Beast; Donna Shor, writer for Washington Life magazine; D.C. activist Virginia E. Hayes Williams; and Arts and Humanities Commission member Rhona Friedman.

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Mother Nature Performs with Artists

March 26, 2012

Girls Decorated as cherry trees (Photo by: Natalia Janetti) Girls Decorated as cherry trees

American artists and Japanese entertainers from samurai sword performers to Misia -- Japan’s most popular female singer --  kept the audience of some 6,000 spellbound at the opening of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, as outside Mother Nature seemed confused on what to do next.

So, as Japanese Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki said, “good thing the blossoms came already, we can now concentrate on the festival itself.”

Inside Washington Convention Center Sunday night, clapping and toe tapping heralded the celebration which will now run through April 27.  

Misia (Photo by: Natalia Janetti) Misia

On stage were opera singer Denyce Graves-Montgomery, The Washington Ballet, Taikoproject drummers, American singer Sara Bareilles, Children’s Chorus of Washington, the New York-based Cirque-tacular Entertainment acrobatic artists, Samurai Sword Soul, and musicians Hideki Togi and Iwao Furnusawa.

The 2012 festival commemorates the 100-year anniversary of the gift of trees from Tokyo to Washington, D.C. 

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