- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 19, 2006

Some local restaurants and wine shops are taking advantage of the world’s focus on Italy during the Winter Olympics to promote their own Italian products.

The Curious Grape, an Arlington wine shop, is holding two more wine and cheese tastings this month — three were held last week — featuring products from the Piedmont region of Italy.

“People are more familiar with the wines of Tuscany — like Chianti — than the wines of Piedmont,” said Suzanne McGrath, president of the Curious Grape. “We’re doing the most important ones … Dolcetto, Barbera, Barbaresco and Barolo.”

The wine shop did a similar promotion during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, introducing customers to Moschofilero, Xynomavro and other wines of Greece.

“We’re kind of doing the same thing with Piedmont,” Ms. McGrath said. Last year, the shop saw a “significant increase” in sales, she said, declining to reveal specifics.

“It’s not just increasing sales, but about raising awareness and creating a following for wines people might not know,” she said.

Italian restaurant Tosca, on F Street NW, has placed four “gold medal” dishes inspired by Turin cuisine on its menu this month for the unfortunate souls who aren’t able to get to Italy to see the Games and taste the region’s cuisine.

Veal ravioli has been the most popular of the four dishes, said Tosca co-owner Paolo Sacco. The other dishes are veal cheeks, Piedmont-style anchovy and a chocolate and hazelnut cake.

“It is so exciting to have all of this attention focused on my homeland,” Mr. Sacco said. “We have had great interest from our customers who have been following the Olympics closely and are very excited to experience a taste of Torino.”

Another Italian restaurant, Galileo on 21st Street NW, has a stake in the Olympic Games. Chef Roberto Donna appeared on NBC’s “Today Show” last week doing cooking demonstrations of foods from his native Turin.

In other news …

• The U.S. Travel & Tourism Promotions Advisory Board, a Commerce Department group responsible for advising on the best ways to promote American tourism abroad, expects to lose its funding in late 2007.

The board and its parent organization, the Office of Travel & Tourism Industries, were funded directly by Congress. The board was created in 2003, but suffered major budget cuts in 2004 and last year until its existence was not requested past 2007, typical for an advisory board, according to a Commerce Department spokesman.

• Thyme Out, a meal preparation store, plans to open its first location this spring. The store, on Main Street in Gaithersburg,will sell 12 meals of five to six portions each for about $200. Customers make the presliced, cooked meals at the shop.

Thyme Out is the second meal preparation store to open in the D.C. area. Let’s Dish opened its first location here in 2004 and now has four stores.

• The District’s first Bed, Bath & Beyond home furnishing store opened in Gallery Place last Monday.

• Anna’s Linens, a linen, bed and bath store, opened a shop in Forestville at the Centre at Forestville in Prince George’s County. It’s the national chain’s second store in the D.C. area. The first is in Greenbelt.

• Retail & Hospitality appears Mondays. Contact Jen Haberkorn at 202/636/4836 or [email protected]

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