- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2001

That's a razorback slinking, insofar as a razorback knows how to slink, slowly back into the woods. Those are steers stampeding down the avenue. Pulled pork is out, beef ribs are in.

Or are they?

A survey of what Washington chefs have up the sleeves of their smocks to celebrate Saturday's inauguration of George W. Bush as the 43rd president suggests that from the Hill down to Foggy Bottom, celebration is the name of the game and special menus aimed at the new in-crowd from Texas is the game.

This requires special care.

Ellen Gray, co-owner of Equinox (on 17th Street, the restaurant is a mere T-bone's throw from the White House), observes that Democrats and Republicans have very different palates: Democrats like fish and vegetables and Republicans are meat and potato people.

Chef Todd Gray's special for Inauguration Day will be cowboy steak and cheese sandwiches with onion rings. Although Equinox usually is closed for lunch Saturdays (when cooking classes take over the kitchen), on the Big Day the restaurant will be open at noon, a boon for hungry paradegoers.

On the Hill, La Brasserie (a longtime congressional favorite on Massachusetts Avenue NE) will be open for lunch Saturday at 11 a.m. a convenient refueling stop for those not invited to the Capitol to lunch with the new president. La Brasserie has a fixed-price menu for $48 on Friday and Saturday nights, although, with the exception of a shrimp cocktail and filet mignon, it's French, not Texican.

In Foggy Bottom, at Dominique's, across the street from the Kennedy Center, hostess Diana Damewood will honor the occasion by giving dinner guests favors: a can of the establishment's famous Senate Navy Bean Soup.

Aquarelle, the restaurant in Swisshotel Watergate, is importing chef David Garrido from Austin, Texas, where his restaurant, Jeffrey's, is said to be a favorite of Mr. Bush and his wife, Laura.

Mr. Garrido will prepare some of the new president's favorite dishes (crispy oysters on taro root chips with pico de gallo, corn pudding, beef tenderloin and a fancy chocolate dessert) for four nights, today through Saturday. Tab for the dinner is $65.

Some restaurants along Pennsylvania Avenue NW the Caucus Room, Ten Penh and Capitol Grille among them have their hands full accommodating as many folks as possible. Ten Penh and Capitol Grille will be closed for private parties Inauguration Day. The latter, which describes its position on the parade route as "ground zero," is going in for lots of decorations.

Les Halles, anticipating the crowds that will arrive to watch the parade, will open at 6 a.m. with coffee and pastries and not close until midnight. The new general manager, Veronique Curveur, says the restaurant will put up a tented sidewalk terrace with windows onto Pennsylvania Avenue, a great spot for parade watching and enjoying a $15.95 brunch.

At the Occidental Grill, executive chef Patrick Bazin has created an imaginative "2001 Inaugural Dinner Menu," available through Sunday. Some of his Texas tributes include smoked acorn squash soup, roasted quail with wild mushrooms, crisp oysters with crabmeat and Southwestern tartar sauce, salmon wrapped in hoja santa leaves with corn cakes, black beans and yellow pepper mole and, of course, grilled cowboy steak. (The Washington Post has taken over the restaurant Inauguration Day for a private party.)

Chef Steve Mannino of Olives highlights a double-cut, bone-in rib-eye steak with shrimp and white bean chili, as well as shrimp with grits. His inaugural weekend menu combines down-home dishes with elegant and sophisticated touches beef brisket with mascarpone polenta, ginger barbecued short ribs and grilled foie gras on Texas toast. Open-faced pulled pork sandwiches are served on honeyed jalapeno cornbread. Olives will open at 3 p.m. Inauguration Day.

Beef hasn't replaced pork at Red, Hot & Blue for its "Politically Correct Inaugural Meal." The popular rib place, familiar to the earlier President Bush as well as President Clinton, is offering a "Hello Dubya, Bye-Bye Bubba Plate" of award-winning Tennessee dry ribs (by no means a consolation dish; they're Memphis pit barbecue), Texas beef brisket with cole slaw and barbecued beans for $9.99 through Sunday, exclusively at the Arlington location on Wilson Boulevard.

Larry La, owner of Meiwah on M Street, isn't planning a special menu but notes that guests can enjoy pork ribs, Chinese style.

At Vidalia on M Street, chef-owner Jeff Buben and executive chef Peter Smith are preparing what can only be called Texas exotica. Available tomorrow through Saturday at the M Street restaurant are Texas tea (black trumpet mushroom bisque that "looks like crude oil") with crabmeat beggars' purses and green chili creme fraiche; barbecued Gulf shrimps with Anaheim pepper and goats cheese corn grits; roasted quail with chipotle chili and onion spoon bread; pepita-crusted Texas venison chop, spicy jicama slaw, braised venison empanada and cinnamon-persimmon sauce. For dessert, there's bourbon pecan creme brulee.

At Vidalia's sister restaurant, Bistro Bis, in the Hotel George hard by Union Station, the menu remains unchanged but inaugural champagnes by the glass will be served today through Saturday until 1 a.m.

Smith & Wollensky, on 19th Street NW, is offering "inaugural wine dinners" through Feb. 9. For $59 per person, diners are served three courses, including crab cakes and shrimp cocktails as appetizers and filet mignon and crackling pork shank as main courses, plus all the wine they can drink. The four daily wines are not plonk, but good vintages from good vineyards, primarily in California.

The new French chef at Blackie's, Claude Rodier, is preparing an all-Maine lobster feast to celebrate. His reasoning: The Bush family owns a house in Maine where everyone goes in the summer.

Timothy Dean Restaurant in the Saint Regis Hotel will offer an exquisite Inauguration Black Tie Dinner menu Saturday that includes salsify and black truffle soup with bone marrow flan, seared scallops, roasted foie gras with braised pineapple, salmon and grilled lamb chops with white truffle mousseline, asparagus and mission fig sauce. Price: $120 per person.

Don Shula, coach of the Miami Dolphins, is opening a branch of his Shula's Steak House in the Wyndham City Center Hotel on New Hampshire Avenue NW today "just in time for the Super Bowl." Floridians apparently are still counting and don't realize Mr. Bush's inauguration, not a mere Super Bowl, is the only game in town in Washington.

For the ladies and gentlemen who like to take tea the Four Seasons Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue NW is celebrating with a First Ladies' Inaugural Tea Party in the hotel's newly redesigned Garden Terrace Lounge through Feb. 4. Tea will highlight menu items using the personal recipes of some former first ladies. Among them: Martha Washington's cherry shortbread, Dolley Madison's caramel layer cake, Jacqueline Kennedy's Sequoia Brownies, Barbara Bush's chicken salad on caraway bread and Edith Wilson's war bread with Virginia ham.

In "upper Georgetown," the Austin Grill will welcome a fellow Texan to Washington with a blue plate special and a celebratory margarita called "Stars and Bars," made with strawberries, lime and blue curacao. (Is this a subtle remembrance of Hood's Texas Brigade?) The blue plate special, available all week long, consists of two chicken enchiladas topped with a creamy, suiza sauce. The restaurant contends that it has been told by Republican insiders that enchiladas are the new president's favorite dish.

The Austin Grill also is preparing the food for Friday night's Texas Black Tie & Boots Ball, the hot ticket sponsored by the Texas State Society at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.

On Eighth Street NW, Cafe Atlantico's mixologist Todd Thrasher has created two new drinks to honor the arrival of Mr. Bush, who is a well-known teetotaler: a Rose of Texas martini and a Texas Blackberry made with marinated blackberries soaked in a Brazilian liquor for three months "a new blackberry version of our Caipirinha."

It's a week for imagination, seeking whatever works.

At Old Glory, the M Street rib joint in Georgetown, manager Mark Owen even considered sending a whole cow with Old Glory's logo branded on it to the White House, hoping Mr. Bush would "come in and eat."

What would the Secret Service make of that, besides a meal?


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