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Many cultures, many tastes on offer near spring

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A sure sign of spring is the arrival of shad. Oceanaire Seafood Room (1201 F St. NW, 202/347-2277) is serving shad and shad roe until the end of the season, probably May. Executive chef Rob Klink celebrates the first rites of spring with pan-fried shad and shad roe with bacon, asparagus and citrus beurre blanc. Diners can order just the roe or just the fish.

The National Gallery of Art's West Building Garden Cafe has been transformed into Garden Cafe: Fontainebleau, where French-country-inspired cuisine, including dishes from local chefs, will be offered until May 18. The occasion is the exhibit "In the Forest of Fontainebleau: Painters and Photographers From Corot to Monet" in the museum from Sunday through June 8. About 100 paintings, pastels and photographs will illustrate the revolution begun by artists working outdoors in 19th-century France.

The Fontainebleau forest was a royal hunting ground for emperors and kings until it became one of the world"s first nature preserves in 1861 by decree of Napoleon III. Cafe hours are 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. A special dessert and beverage menu is served from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Nathalie Dupree of Charleston, S.C., author of 12 cookbooks, is the keynote speaker March 8 for Les Dames d'Escoffier's sixth annual Salute to Women in Gastronomy. The daylong event explores cooking, culinary careers and communications. Breakfast and lunch — along with a Festival of Desserts — are included in the ticket price of $90. The event takes place at the Universities at Shady Grove (9630 Gudelsky Drive, Rockville, 202/973-2168) from 8:30 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.

Forty additional speakers and chefs, including Washington and Northern Virginia chefs Ris Lacoste, Jamie Leeds, Kate Jansen and Aulie Bunyarathphan, will present hands-on cooking classes during the day.

From March 18 to 30, Jose Andres and his culinary team at Oyamel Cocina Mexicana (401 Seventh St. NW, 202/628-1005) will host a celebration of tequila and mezcal, featuring a variety of tequila specials. During the festival, guests can sample tequila flights priced from $20 to $30. Menu specials during the festival will include dishes, priced at $8 and $9.50, such as ceviche of salmon cured in mezcal, lime-tequila soup, and grilled beef tenderloin with borracha sauce.

On March 18, master distiller Leopoldo Solis will lead an exclusive guided tasting for 20 guests highlighting the unique characteristics of Siembra Azul's highlands tequila. A selection of antojitos will be served. The tasting, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., costs $25 per person.

From 5 to 7 p.m. March 20 at Oyamel's Butterfly Bar, Del Maguey founder Ron Cooper will conduct a free sampling of his company's unblended mezcals.

On March 25 and 26 from 5 to 7 p.m., Otto Hoernig, the president of Casa Noble, will be at Oyamel to conduct a free tasting of his tequilas. The festivities conclude March 27 with a seated tequila dinner at 8 p.m. with guest David Suro of Siembra Azul.

The seven-course dinner, $75 per person, will be paired with Oyamel's specialty cocktails.

The Easter brunch (May 23) at Marcel's (2401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 202/296-1166) begins with a choice of crab flan, aged sherry shallot butter; frisee salad with deviled quail eggs; diver scallops and braised pork belly; scallop ceviche; golden beets and Pipe Dreams goat cheese; or corn soup with lobster ravioli.

The main courses are Norwegian salmon, roulade of rabbit, roasted farmhouse chicken, grilled rib-eye steak, and lamb tenderloins wrapped in phyllo pastry. For dessert: plum tarragon tart, Armagnac ice cream; passion fruit cheese cake, mango sorbet; and chocolate mousse tower, raspberry coulis.

The price is $70 for adults, and $35 for children under 12, exclusive of gratuities and tax. The hours are 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

A traditional wine pairing dinner featuring pours from California's Quintessa Vineyards is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. March 28 at Morton's Steakhouse (8075 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, 703/883-0811). The menu includes miniature crab cakes, tomato and basil soup and double-cut filet mignon with sauce bordelaise. The priced is $165 per person all inclusive.

Morton's is also featuring "a night of indulgence" of Russian vodka and caviar March 7 at its Arlington restaurant (1750 Crystal Drive, 703/418-1444) and on March 27 at its Georgetown steakhouse (3251 Prospect St. NW, 202/342-6258). Vodka, Petrossian caviar and hors d'oeuvres of smoked salmon, tuna tartare and sliced tenderloin will be served from 6 to 7:30 p.m.; $45, all inclusive, per person.

Good news for the lunch bunch. Wolfgang Puck's the Source (575 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 202/637-6100) is serving lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday.

Executive chef Scott Drewno is offering a $30 three-course prix fixe menu that includes crispy suckling pig or tandoori arctic char as a first course; red snapper with Thai curry or pan-roasted chicken with Lapsong sausage fried rice as a main course; and a chocolate purse with vanilla and chocolate swirl sorbet as dessert.

The a la carte menu is also available.

Las Canteras (2307 18th St. NW, 202/265-1780) is offering a weekend brunch featuring creative takes on traditional Peruvian dishes.

Executive chef Eddy Ancasi's innovative culinary approach includes quinoa pancakes; Las Canteras tamal, made of white corn and filled with shredded chicken, olives, egg and spices; a fish ceviche; causa, a cake of yellow potatoes alternating with layers of corn and chicken; and anticuchos — chicken, beef or beef heart marinated and grilled. Also featured are cocktails made with pisco, the clear grape brandy from Peru.

Ardeo (3311 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202/244-6750) announces two new offerings to be enjoyed by wine and champagne lovers until the end of summer.

First is the two-course Sunday brunch, $25 per person, with unlimited pours of sparkling wines, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Once the weather warms up, brunch will also be served on the upstairs outdoor patio.

Second, anyone choosing to dine at Ardeo's bar, will receive a complimentary glass of red or white wine with the dinner entree.

Topaz Bar (1733 N St. NW, 202/393-3000) has launched a red, white and blue Topaz Votes '08 Campaign Cocktail Menu to celebrate the presidential race.

Cocktails such as Double-Down Donkey (vodka, curacao and champagne); All-In Elephant (rum, amaretto, grenadine, lime juice and orange juice); Independent Player (vodka and aloe vera juice), and the Undecided (a flight featuring all three campaign cocktails served in mini martini glasses) will be served. For each campaign cocktail purchased, a vote will go to the corresponding political party.

Cork Wine Bar & Restaurant (1720 14th St. NW, 202/265-2675) has opened, pairing wines from the Old World with a simple, accessible American menu of plates to share. Guests may select from 35 wines by the glass and 130 bottles from small producers in France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Austria.

Mrs. K's Toll House (9201 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, 301/589-3500) will hold its first Bring Your Own Basket dining adventure on Easter (March 23).

Mrs. K's will offer three traditional Easter egg hunts for children 12 and younger, to be followed by three seatings for executive chef Maurisee Upshur's all-inclusive Easter dinner, priced at $60 per person, $25 for children 12 and under, with an additional $10 per family to participate in the Easter egg hunt. Each hunt will run 30 minutes, prior to dinner reservations. Recent renovations in the restaurant created the Wine Press, a 3,600-square-foot wine cellar with a 12-seat bar for sampling Mrs. K's 600 labels, with 64 wines by the glass. The Wine Press is also open for dining.

An unusual charity function takes place March 5. Some of Washington's outstanding artists are guests for the Fillmore Arts Center's Dinner With an Artist program. Each artist will be the guest of honor at a salon-style dinner for no more than eight ticket holders. The dinners are hosted in private homes and people can buy tickets for the dinner of their choice for $175 per seat.

All proceeds go to support Fillmore, a nonprofit, charitable organization that provides arts education programs for elementary schools across the city. This year's artists include painter Rebecca Cross; musician Chuck Brown; Michael Kahn, director of the Shakespeare Theatre; and tango dancer Sharna Fabiano. Tickets must be bought by March 1.

For tickets and additional information, call Anne Masters, 202/337-3748, or go to amasters@annemastersdesign.com.

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