From Kathryn Ciano. Follow her on Twitter @katciano. Email her at kathryn[AT]borderstan.com.
Le Diplomate, a French restaurant coming to 14th and Q Streets NW, will be open soon and is taking reservations, starting April 12.
Opening day comes after two years of development work and many demolition dollars that were used to repurpose the old laundromat at 14th and Q Streets.
Stephen Starr’s Le Diplomate will seat 260 diners and serve lunch, brunch and dinner. The menu will be a hybrid of traditional bistro dishes and contemporary selections, paired with cocktails and wines.
Le Diplomate will also have a patio, just in time for spring.
Inside, red leather booths and authentic French furniture — some of it actually imported from Paris — decorate the space. The efficient, light-wood interior all bring to mind a railroad dining car (or one smoldering cigarette shy of the perfect Parisian café).
To make reservations, call 202-332-3333 between 10 am and 6 pm.
Odds are you probably haven’t had Raclette, though hopefully you’ll want to after reading this post. Raclette is a great winter weather dish but is less popular in the United States than its melted cheese cousin, fondue.
In Switzerland, where it is from, and in France, where I am from, it’s very popular though. So popular that you can actually find it at McDonalds (oui, we have a McRaclette!)
Simple to Make
So what is this Raclette? It’s four things really:
- A pungent washed rind cows milk cheese.
- The dish you make with that cheese.
- The grill you use to melt the raclette (cheese) you need to make the raclette (dish).
- The dinner party where people get together to eat the raclette (dish) made by melted raclette (cheese) on the raclette (grill).
Are you still following me?
It’s actually a lot simpler than I make it out to be. Raclette is a simple dish with humble origins. Like fondue, it was a way to finish dried old cheese and already opened wine. In fondue, the cheese is melted in a pot (fondue comes from the French word fondre which means to melt) and eaten with bread.
In Raclette, slices of cheese are melted in a little pan under a table side grill then scraped (raclette gets its name from the French word for scrape: racler) over warm potatoes and charcuterie. Raclette is less popular here because the grill and the cheese are harder to find. Harder, yes, but not impossible!
Raclette is the perfect dish for cold winter days and if you feel like throwing a raclette dinner party, you can easily order a grill from Williams-Sonoma or Amazon.com. Raclette grills usually come with eight to 10 little pans, but I’ve seen two-pans (for an intimate raclette date) and four-pans (for the studio friendly raclette party) pop up here and there.
The cheese can be bought at Whole Foods, Cowgirl Creamery and Righteous Cheese. Beyond the grill and the cheese, all you need is small boiled potatoes, charcuterie (I personally love prosciutto with raclette but turkey and ham are fine too), cornichons and a simple tossed salad for a side dish. Raclette is pretty heavy, so you can skip the appetizers.
As far as pairings are concerned, white wine is typically what you would serve with Raclette, like an Alsatian pinot gris or a Sauvignon Blanc. But you can go beyond whites of course. Carolyn of Righteous Cheese currently offers French Raclette in one of her flights and pairs with a Jolly Pumpkin Oro de Calabaza beer. At the recommendation of the folks at Modern Liquor, I recently tried a light Austrian red with my Raclette and it worked out really well. So give Raclette a try while it’s still cold out out… it’ll help you melt the winter blues away!
Bon Appétiiit! Julia Child would have turned 100 on August 15, 2012. Eight years after her death, she remains one of America’s most famous “French chefs.” She loved France, she loved French food… but for some reason, the French never really warmed up to her.
Even worse, many had probably never heard of her until the film Julie and Julia was released. Neither her best-selling cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” nor her biography, “My Life in France,” have been translated for Gallic audiences… even I didn’t really know who she was until a friend of mine loaned me her copy of Julie Powell’s book (that one, by the way, is available in French under the title “Sexe, Blog et Boeuf Bourguignon”).
Nonetheless, now that I live in the United States, I appreciate how great an ambassador Julia Child was for French cuisine and I am thrilled to see that so many restaurants around the country are honoring her with a special Julia Child Restaurant Week from August 7 to 15.
The Food: Where to Celebrate
In Washington, DC, where Julia lived briefly, there are four restaurants participating in her centennial celebration:
- At Central (1001 Pennsylvania Avenue NW), Chef Michel Richard is re-creating a dish he once prepared for Julia Child: chicken “Julia” with ratatouille ($24).
- Marcel’s (2401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW) is adding a whole roasted tarragon chicken accompanied by asparagus, braised carrots, mushrooms in Madeira sauce and potatoes dauphinoises to its regular menu on August 15th ($85 for two).
- Chef Ris Lacoste, who prepared Child’s 90th birthday dinner back in 2002, is offering a number of her favorite dishes throughout the month at RIS (2275 L Street NW), available either à la carte or as part of a prix fixe menu.
- Here in Borderstan, Chef David Fritsche at Café Dupont (1500 New Hampshire Avenue NW) is presenting a special three-course Julia Child 100th Birthday Menu from August 7 to 15. The $50 menu includes wine pairing and fabulous dishes like a peach tarte tartin or duck à l’orange. They’re also bringing in New York Times best-selling author Bob Spitz from 6 to 8 pm on August 15. The “Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child” author (and the only writer granted the permission to pen a definitive biography of Julia Child) will answer questions and sign copies of his book.
Earlier on August 15, Spitz will be spending some time at the National Museum of American History. The Smithsonian museum is bringing back Julia Child’s beloved Cambridge, Massachusetts, kitchen for a limited time (through September 3). The kitchen was used as the set of her three television shows and still contains hundreds of tools, appliances and furnishings arranged exactly as they were when Child donated the kitchen to the museum in 2001. In addition to Spitz, who will be signing his book at 2:30 pm, there will be festivities throughout the day and Alex Prud’homme, who co-wrote “My Life in France” with Child, will also be there signing copies of the book (11 am to 1 pm).
As for me, well, I’m still learning about this tall lady who did so much to introduce my country’s food to American audiences. And the best way to do that is by watching old episodes of “The French Chef.” PBS is broadcasting original episodes of the show, some of which have not aired since the 1960’s. And since they’re encouraging viewers to cook alongside of the episodes and to share their creations by posting pictures to PBS Food on Twitter, you might see how well I (and others) fare at re-creating classic Julia Child dishes by following the hashtag #CookForjulia.