The ides of March are upon us, and shortly thereafter it’s Easter. There’s a lot going on in town this month and into April, with many restaurant events internationally inspired.
Chef-owner Cesare Lanfranconi is again celebrating Festa della Donna, Italy’s version of International Women’s Day, at Tosca (1112 F St. NW; 202/367-1990) with a special three-course menu through March 11. Roasted Maine scallops, tortelli of asparagus, polenta cake with roasted apples and warm chocolate sauce are on the menu, priced at $22 for lunch and $35 for dinner. Groups of two or more women who order the special menu will be given tickets to the Berthe Morisot exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Maggiano’s Little Italy (5333 Wisconsin Ave. NW; 202/966-5500, and 2001 International Drive, McLean; 703/356-9000) is inviting patrons to embark on a Culinary Journey Through Italy this month with weekly specials. Free samples with accompanying recipe cards will be offered tomorrow (Tuscany — pappardelle with veal and mushrooms), March 17 (Emiglia-Romagna — pancetta-wrapped shrimp), March 24 (Lombardy — osso bucco) and March 31 (Campania — salmon rotolo).
Paris on the Potomac will be celebrated at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel (14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW) on Wednesdays throughout March. Fourteen regions of France will be featured. In the Willard Room, guests will be offered French regional cuisine and French wines in three-course lunches ($35) and four-course dinners ($65). Dishes include such regional specialties as roasted pork knuckle with sauerkraut and boiled potato from Alsace, pressed skate wing from the Loire, leek and onion tart from Pas-de-Calais, venison loin from Corsica, and wild mushroom terrine from Bordeaux. The hotel’s Cafe 1401 will feature a la carte regional dishes for lunch Fridays through May 20.
Down Mexico way, Chris Cunningham is again teaching his tequila and margarita classes at Andale (401 Seventh St. NW). Participants will learn to make perfect margaritas from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, April 9 and May 14. The cost is $30 per class. Call 202/783-3133 for reservations.
Saturday and Sunday are the days for the annual Washington International Wine & Food Festival at the D.C. Convention Center. The public is invited on both days from 1 to 5 p.m. to taste wines from 280 domestic and international wineries, watch demonstrations and sample food prepared by many of the area’s top chefs, attend seminars on wine, and taste treats from local restaurants and bakeries. Tickets (800/343-1174) are $71 for one day and $92 for two days.
Easter falls on March 27 this year, the last Sunday of the month. The Easter Bunny will make an appearance at the Kennedy Center’s Roof Terrace Restaurant during brunch, and a photographer will be on hand to take photographs of children and the bunny. Brunch will be served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with seatings from 10 to 11 a.m., noon to 1 p.m. and 2 to 2:45 p.m. The cost is $34 for adults and $17 for children under 12.
The Colonnade at the Fairmont Washington (2401 M St. NW; 202/457-5000) is offering its Easter brunch with locally smoked, cured and air-dried meats; roasted tenderloin of beef; clams and oysters from the Chesapeake Bay; Gulf shrimp; and an array of hot dishes and pastry selections. Brunch will be served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is priced at $70 for adults and $35 for children under 12. That busy Easter Bunny and his photographer will be hopping around taking photographs of children who wish to pose with the bunny.
Firefly (1310 New Hampshire Ave. NW; 202/861-1310) has started serving Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., featuring chef John Wabeck’s menu classics and manager Derek Brown’s sparkling cocktails, including a traditional kir royale and a red velvet swing, a combination of port, cognac and champagne garnished with a rose petal. On the menu are such dishes as crab omelets, brioche French toast, pork-and-cabbage spring rolls and scrambled eggs with kielbasa.
March means springtime and spring means the shad are running, and in Washington they are running to Oceanaire Seafood Room (1201 F St. NW; 202/347-2277) and Georgetown’s Martin’s Tavern (1264 Wisconsin Ave. NW; 202/333-7370).
Shad is a member of the herring family; the fish live in the sea but ascend to the rivers in the spring to spawn, starting their journey in Florida and going as far north as the St. Lawrence River in Canada in early May, when the season is over. In North America, shad was originally an East Coast treat but was introduced to the West Coast in 1871.
At Oceanaire, chef Rob Klink is preparing the classic pan-fried shad and shad roe with bacon, asparagus and a citrus beurre blanc. At Martin’s Tavern, shad is served with sauteed baby artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes in a white wine sauce, or simply sauteed with a squeeze of lemon and a splash of white wine. The roe is pan-sauteed and topped with bacon. At both restaurants, diners may choose between having both shad and roe or just the shad or roe separately.
The Inn at Easton (28 S. Harrison St., Easton, Md.; 410/822-4910) is welcoming spring with a special wine dinner at 7 p.m. Friday. Chef-owner Andrew Evans, who specializes in Australian cuisine, and wine expert Daniel Haas have created a memorable meal starting with pan-roasted halibut accompanied by a grand cru Chablis, followed by Maine lobster with fettuccine and asparagus. The third course is a coq au vin, followed by roast rack of lamb, and, finally, a bittersweet chocolate terrine. Each course is accompanied by an outstanding French wine. The cost of dinner is $95, all inclusive.
For another taste of springtime, the 2005 National Cherry Blossom Festival’s Cherry Picks show some creative cooking from March 26 to April 10 with such dishes as:
Pasty chef Jason Andelman’s warm chocolate cake with cherry ginger sauce and cherry ice cream (Ten Penh)
Cherries jubilee chocolate fondue (Melting Pot)
Executive chef Frank Belosic’s venison with mole, cherry, apple and onion compote (Fahrenheit)
Rabbit terrine with cherries and kirsch, roasted pork loin with port and cherry sauce, and meringue pillows with sweet-and-sour cherry mousse (Brasserie Les Halles)
Sauteed sweet cherries in olive oil (Cafe 15)
Chocolate cherry napoleon (Cafe Mozu)
Pastry chef David Guas’ warm sopapillas with spiced honey syrup and sour orange-and-cherry chutney (Ceiba)
Three-course menus, with each course featuring a cherry concoction (Bangkok Joe’s and Palette)
That’s just a sampling of restaurants with cherry-themed dishes for the occasion.
Restaurant Kolumbia (1801 K St. NW; 202/331-5551) is offering a Twilight Bacchanalia from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, when all wines on the regular wine list are half price.
Zola (800 F St. NW; 202/654-0999) is creating new cocktails for springtime: lavender-and-lace martini, money penny martini and cactus martini.
The new Cloud Dining Lounge (1 Dupont Circle; 202/872-1122), formerly Savino’s Cafe, features a raw bar and a selection of specialty and champagne cocktails.