- The Washington Times - Monday, April 4, 2005

April is not the cruelest month by any means. Washington has cherry blossoms and tulip trees, and soon the multi

hued azaleas will bloom. Chefs throughout the city are changing their menus to reflect the bounty of spring.

Restaurant Kolumbia (1801 K St. NW) is featuring lunchtime salads, such as sauteed shrimp with spinach, grapefruit and a poached egg; tuna Nicoise with cannelloni beans and a pimiento sauce; duck galantine and confit over endive, Gorgonzola and balsamic poached plums; and a sliced beef and vegetable salad. The chef is skilled at making charcuterie, rabbit pate with pecans, cooked and dry-cured salamis, veal blood sausage and lobster sausage for a lobster cassoulet.

The new menu suggestions of the Capital Grille (601 Pennsylvnia Ave. NW) include Kona-crusted sirloin with caramelized shallot butter, North Atlantic lobster saute, and Delmonico steak with wild mushrooms.

To celebrate spring, the Taberna del Alabardero (1776 I St. NW) is having a chocolate festival during April. Chef Santi Zabaleta is preparing three chocolate tapas, each accompanied by a Spanish sherry.

The chocolate tasting is priced at $18. Flourless chocolate cake, chocolate parfait with white chocolate sauce and bittersweet chocolate coffee custard are the creations. Spain claims to have introduced chocolate to Europe in 1528 and added sugar, honey and cinnamon to the bitter cocoa drink of the mezzo Americans.

Europe’s chocolate has come back to America via the talented hands of Jacques Torres, formerly pastry chef extraordinaire at New York’s Le Cirque and now the creator of chocolates in his Brooklyn factory, which has been likened to the shop in “Chocolat.” Mr. Torres was in Washington as part of the Smithsonian’s great chefs program; his chocolates are available locally at Balducci’s (formerly Sutton Place Gourmet) at 3201 New Mexico Ave. NW.

Cafe Mozu in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel (1330 Maryland Ave. SW) is the locale for a Pinot and Pork Walk Around tasting event April 18. The pinots come from Sonoma, Santa Barbara (shades of “Sideways”) and Burgundy. The pork is from California’s Niman Ranch and will be prepared in varying dishes by chefs from Charlie Palmer Steak, Corduroy, 15 Ria, Nora, Ceiba and Cafe Mozu, among others. Tickets are $65 but $55 for members of Slow Food U.S.A. Proceeds will benefit Slow Food U.S.A.

Oyamel (2250 Crystal Drive, Arlington) will be the setting May 10 for a charity fund-raiser for Through the Kitchen Door. The organization is a nonprofit group established to meet the needs of the Hispanic population in the Greater Washington area.

Founded in Costa Rica by its director, Liesel Flashenberg, the program provides basic skills for Hispanic women and youth through training in the culinary arts. Participants will order from the regular menu of small plates ranging in price from $4 to $8, with 40 percent of the evening’s proceeds to benefit Through the Kitchen Door. Reservations are required (703/413-2288).

Martin Saylor is the new chef at Juniper in the Fairmont Hotel (2401 M St. NW). Mr. Saylor, who honed his culinary skills in the Navy and formerly was executive chef at Butterfield 9, has created a menu reflecting some of his mid-Atlantic favorites, such as potato gnocchi with mushroom ragout; flounder filet with crab-potato hash; almonds and a brown butter sauce; and roast lemon chicken with cannelloni bean salad.

Chef-owner Andrew Evans of the Inn at Easton Harrison St., Easton, Md), will teach two Spring Into Healthy Eating cooking classes from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. May 7 and 21. Classes are priced per couple and include accommodations for two nights, the class, a Saturday night eight-course tasting menu and breakfast both mornings. Prices range from $750 to $1,100cq Web for the weekend. The May 7 class is called “Tastes of Spring,” and the May 21 class is titled “Vietnamese Flavors.” For reservations, call 410/822-4910.

Don’t forget the tequila classes at Andale01 eventh St. NW) from 3 to 4:30 p.m. SaturdayApril 9 and May 14 , when tequila expert Chriscq Cunningham will teach participants how to make a perfect margarita.

The Japan Inn on Wisconsin Avenue, just above Georgetown, closed its doors March 31. But owners Izumi Yoshimoto and her daughter, Miki, are planning to open

Chez Mama-san (1039 33rd St. NW) at the entrance to Cady’s Alley in Georgetown in May. The new restaurant will offer home-style Japanese meals, a type of cooking called “yo-shoku” (foods from across the seas). This is Japanese comfort food that evolved in Japan in the late 19th century when the country opened its borders to the outside world.

The shad and shad roe springtime tradition continues throughout April at Martin’s Tavern (1264 Wisconsin Ave. NW) and Oceanaire Seafood Room (1201 F St. NW). Both restaurants also feature oysters. The American Chemical Society recently announced that Casanova, the 18th-century lover, breakfasted on 50 oysters. The Romans before him had it right, too. It appears that raw oysters may indeed be an aphrodisiac, as a team of American and Italian scientists have discovered that oysters are rich in rare amino acids that trigger increased levels of sex hormones. Viva Italia.

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