- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 11, 2004

SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Those April showers (and storms) have indeed brought May flowers, and the city is alive with blossoms. Tables, chairs and umbrellas have also blossomed in the sunshine in many outdoor cafes.

At 1515 Rhode Island Ave. NW, 15 RIA has tables set on a semi-secluded sidewalk area in front of the restaurant. Chef Jaime Leed’s menu is always full of surprises. Try the Friday special, a soft-shell-crab sandwich, served with a choice of two sides. The strawberry slaw, an unusual and refreshing combination of red cabbage and juicy sliced strawberries, goes well with the soft-shell, which comes with delicious slices of pickled squash.

One block farther east, at 1430 Rhode Island Ave., Helix Inside Out has a new outdoor patio where chef Stafford Mather offers light fare and “classic cocktails with a playful twist.” The decor is a mix of whimsy (low tables supported by gnomes) and cabana style (striped fabrics on the walls of the private alcoves). Inside Out is open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily (11 p.m. on weekends) and for brunch Saturdays and Sundays.

Georgetown’s Four Seasons Hotel, 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, is offering guests complimentary lemonade of oranges as well as lemons in the garden courtyard adjacent to the Garden Terrace Lounge. The outdoor terrace of the hotel’s Seasons restaurant is now open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Menus as well as venues are changing with the new season. At 1789, 1226 36th St. NW, chef Ris Lacoste is featuring local asparagus in her new five-course Market Menu during May, which includes asparagus and crabmeat cocktail with orange hollandaise sauce and Alaska halibut on asparagus cream. The five-course dinner is $60 per person, or $100 including selected wines, plus tax and gratuity.

Miss Lacoste will be giving monthly demonstrations throughout the growing season to support the Georgetown Freshfarm Market in the Hyde Elementary School yard, 3219 O St. NW, on Saturday mornings from mid-July through November. The demonstrations, which began May 8, will be held June 12, July 17, Aug. 21, Sept. 25 and Oct. 30. She will also carry the kitchen to the market by bringing her dishes to the D.C. Freshfarm markets. For more information on the markets, contact director Ann Yonkers, 202/362-8889.

Downtown at Zola, 800 F St. NW, chef Frank Morales is introducing a new spring menu that starts with asparagus and jumbo lump crabmeat and continues with roasted duck breast, Italian peppers and spring onion marmalade. Chef Morales’ nod to the delicate greens of the springtime garden shows up in fava beans, English peas and wild ramp.

Zola is also introducing two new springtime cocktails: passion, a champagne drink with passion fruit and mango rum, and coconut tears, with a blend of rums.

At the other end of the 800 block of F Street, at Spy City Cafe, Mr. Morales, executive chef of Spy City as well, has introduced gourmet hot dogs: Red Square dog, a half-smoked sausage with red cabbage, slaw, red pepper, mustard and red chili sauce; the Langley dog, an all-beef sausage with spy chili, cheese and onions; and the disguise dog, either one of the above two hot dogs with five disguises from a list including spiced relish, jalapeno cheese, sauteed onions, coleslaw and sauerkraut. The dogs are priced at $3.25 each.

Chef-owner Cesare Lanfranconi of Tosca, 1112 F St. NW, is offering cooking enthusiasts a chance to explore the regional cuisine of Italy this month and next via a series of cooking classes from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. At each demonstration, participants will join Mr. Lanfranconi in his kitchen and will enjoy lunch featuring the dishes demonstrated, accompanied by regional wines. The schedule is: Saturday, Piedmont; May 22, Sardinia; and May 29, Lombardy. June classes will include Campania and Liguria. Space is limited to 16 people per class, and the cost is $85. To sign up or for additional information, contact Lisa Foster at 202/367-1990.

Tosca has started pre-theater three-course menus priced at $32, plus tax and gratuity, offered from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Instead of a set menu with only two or three choices, guests will be able to choose from a selection of more than half of Tosca’s regular dinner-menu dishes, including a radicchio and pear salad with Gorgonzola cheese terrine and toasted walnuts; Lake Como traditional ravioli of aged ricotta and raisins with butter, sage and Parmesan sauce; and roasted sea bass with sauteed spinach, pine nuts and raisins.

In Hotel Lombardy’s Venetian Room, 2019 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, chef Laurent Hollaender has introduced a Spuntino menu listing small plates.

These snacks, available from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., consist of such tempting delicacies as Gorgonzola cheese with chestnut honey; warm mozzarella and tomato tart sprinkled with pine nuts and basil oil; and a cassoulet of chorizo sausage, Serrano ham and white cannelloni beans. The small dishes are easily shared and go well with drinks.

May also is the month of the third annual dragon boat race with two days of colorful pageantry at the Washington Harbour in Georgetown. The competition features professional and amateur divisions, with four boats per heat racing a 250-meter course and a 500-meter course between the Key Bridge and Thompson’s Boat House.

This year’s races will be May 22 and 23. Dragon boat racing began in China more than 2,000 years ago; it represents history, tradition, culture, teamwork and sportsmanship.

And if you are hungry, there’s no shortage of restaurants at the Washington Harbour, including Bangkok Joe’s, which, although Thai rather than Chinese, makes some very tasty dim sum.

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