Forbes Travel Guide: D.C.'s Top Tasting Menus

All eyes are on Washington, D.C., right now, and not just because we’re inaugurating our 45th president. No, friends, foodies are looking at the nation’s capital as one of the country’s buzziest fine-dining cities, thanks to big-name chefs and local celebrities rolling out the red carpet with wow-worthy, tasting-menu-focused restaurants. These options are pricey but memorable — and perfect for date night.

Just outside of Washington, D.C., in Old Town Alexandria, chef Cathal Armstrong offers up a unique mix of French and Irish flair with his five- and seven-course tasting menus ($105 to $140; $75 to $105 extra for wine pairings).

For a memorable yet wallet-friendly alternative, there are shorter three-course menus with different themes available in the bar and lounge for $50. A lighter prixe-fixe menu is also offered at lunch.

via Forbes Travel Guide, McLean Robbins

Northern Virginia Magazine's 50 Best Restaurants 2016

“If we’re making ramen, we’re making our own noodles. We’re not buying. What’s the fun in that?” At a few years shy of 50, when most chefs leave the line for empire-building (hold that thought), Cathal Armstrong still very much lives in his kitchen. If there is something on the menu, from the harissa seasoning his multistep, 1,000-ingredient bouillabaisse to the lumpia wrappers for his version of Filipino egg rolls, he’s making it from scratch. Yogurt, tasso-style duck and dumplings. Everything. A starter for lunch, the mussels in a buttery namm jim, a Thai dipping sauce for seafood, are so spicy guests require a warning, but on that same menu, a hand-cut steak tartare remains a pitch-perfect classic. Before the next course, be it bass surrounded by cream and cucumbers or a stunning bouillabaisse, servers will come smiling to the table, whisking away any remnants of the previous course (or crusty bread!) with a shiny crumber. The pan-Asian family-style tasting menu is still one of the most exciting and surprising ways to dine fine in Northern Virginia. And as for Armstrong, before he opens a restaurant and a distillery in D.C. (he’s also looking at an Old Town waterfront property), make sure to be the center of his attention at Restaurant Eve.

Northern Virginia Magazine, 2016

Finding Ramen in Unexpected Places Around D.C. | Eater DC

Ramen is popping up in places beyond noodle shops and Japanese restaurants

by Tierney Plumb

Restaurant Eve's ramen comes with house-made alkaline ramen noodles, Path Valley Farm egg, Jurgielewicz Farm duck, cremini mushrooms from Tuscarora, and micro greens from Great Greens.


Edible Eureka: 4 Chefs Share the Meals That Changed Their Lives | OpenTable

photo by The Crepes of Wrath

Edible Eureka: 4 Chefs Share the Meals That Changed Their Lives


Looking back over all the thousands of meals they’ve ever eaten, chefs can often pinpoint those that had the greatest impact. These epiphanic moments might inspire them to cook, profoundly alter their culinary philosophy, unveil a deeper revelation about the human experience, or instill a deep-seated love of a particular dish. Here 4 top chefs share the meals that changed their lives.

Cathal Armstrong, Restaurant Eve, Alexandria, Virginia
“My dad was a tour operator in Ireland, so he sold airline tickets and hotel rooms as packages. His firm bought tickets in bulk and sometimes there would be a couple of seats left over. We’d be sitting around the dinner table and my dad would say, ‘Wanna go to Portugal tomorrow?’ He loved cooking, so food was always a part of our family and our trips. When I was six-years-old, we went to Alicanté in southeast Spain. One of dad’s travel agents took us up into the mountains to meet his grandmother. The men went out into the fields and caught rabbits, which they skinned alive. They dug a pit and hung the paella pan over it. It was incredible and made the longest lasting impact as a food memory. Since then, paella has been one of my favorite dishes to eat. However, my father prepared the best paella I’ve ever had in my life. Only about five years ago, I asked him to teach me the way to make it the way he does it. Similar to bouillabaisse or cassoulet, there are layers and layers of flavor in paella, which make a symphony. It’s everything food is supposed to be.” Make a reservation at Restaurant Eve.

Read the full story on OpenTable

Perfect G&Ts: 11 Top Gin and Tonics to Beat the August Heat | OpenTable

by Nevin Martell for OpenTable

During the mercury spiking summer months and the still steamy early days of autumn, humble gin and tonics are the quintessential heat-beaters. The effervescence lifts you up and the nuanced sharpness of the tonic cuts through the humidity, while a complex arrangement of botanicals works to sooth your frazzled nerves. Here are 11 top gin and tonics that go beyond a simple mixture of Schweppes and Beefeater.

Restaurant Eve, Alexandria, Virginia
Bar star Todd Thrasher spent nine months perfecting his homemade tonic. He infuses the deep brown syrup with cinchona bark powder containing the tonic’s trademark quinine, honey, yuzu, lemongrass, and lavender grown in the restaurant’s garden. The mixer is paired with the tippler’s gin of choice and arrives in a Collins glass. Make a reservation at Restaurant Eve.



The day I made Obama stew | The Times (UK)

Presidential order: Armstrong had a surprise call to work one day to cook for special guests. He gave them chicken casserole

Irish chef Cathal Armstrong has cooked an anniversary dinner for the US president and first lady. Now he’s helping to improve the diets of American schoolchildren

by Corinna Hardgrave


You may not have heard of Irish chef Cathal Armstrong, but the American president has. To celebrate their wedding anniversary in 2011, Barack and Michelle Obama chose Restaurant Eve, Armstrong’s fine-dining venue in Alexandria, Virginia, for a romantic meal for two.

“My brother was visiting from Ireland, so it was the first time in five years I was off on Saturday. When the phone rang and on the caller ID I could see it was the restaurant, I angrily picked up and said, ‘What? What do you want?’ They said, ‘You have to come back in to work — the president’s going to be here in half an hour.’

“I had been in the process of cooking a chicken casserole dish when I got the phone call, so that’s what I cooked for them. Now I call it President Obama stew,” he says. “They ate dinner at a table in the restaurant like everyone else, but with the secret service standing everywhere. They put a couple of people in the kitchen to supervise, too. Nobody actually tasted anything, but they watched what we were doing. The president of the United States is not going to get poisoned on my watch.

“As the Obamas were leaving, I went out to greet them and introduced my brother. They were just back from Ireland and said, ‘Oh, we loved Ireland.’ They stayed and chatted with us and took photos. They were very gracious,” adds the Dubliner.

Armstrong is one of Ireland’s most successful exports, and the go-to chef in America for television cookery slots when St Patrick’s Day rolls around each year. He is married, with two children, and has lived in America for 26 years, where he is the head of a multimillion-dollar restaurant group in Virginia. 

10 first date ideas from local chefs you'll want to steal | DC Refined

Cathal & Meshelle Armstrong, circa mid 1990s

We asked area culinary talent to time travel back to the first time they laid eyes on their partner. Then, we prodded further to find out where they went on their first date. Feeling lucky, we even asked for photos from the early days of each relationship. The result is a goldmine of date inspiration, just in time for spring fever, plus a heavy dose of nostalgia.

by Laura Hayes

Cathal and Meshelle Armstrong: Paper Moon, Bistro Francais (now closed), Vidalia

The EatGoodFood Group duo of Cathal and Meshelle Armstrong met in 1992 at Cities in Adams Morgan. Meshelle served as the designer and manager and Cathal was helping out in the kitchen -- though mostly he was sending Meshelle love notes in the form of mini pizzas. When they eventually went on a first date, it lasted a week. After service one night, a group went to Paper Moon Restaurant in Georgetown for dancing, and then it was onto Bistro Francais the next day for breakfast. "One day I will open a restaurant," she told him. "One day, I'll open it with you," he responded. The marathon date concluded with dinner at Vidalia the next day. Sally Buben's lemon chess pie and the shrimp and grits left an impression -- so much so that Cathal started working there.

via DC Refined


Your Northern Virginia edible bucket list | DC Refined

by Laura Hayes

If you can't fall in love at Restaurant Eve, it's time to join the lonely hearts club. Old Town, Alexandria's quintessential date spot helmed by Chef/Owner Cathal Armstrong still sings after 12 years. Put your meal in Armstrong's capable hands by going the tasting menu route ($105 for five courses; $140 for seven courses) and surrender to whatever beverage savant Todd Thrasher wants to pour. For a slightly more casual and adventurous evening, the restaurant is still offering its hot and funky Asian tasting menu ($65) that pulls from Thailand and the Philippines.

via DC Refined

8 Delectable Spring Desserts to Try Around DC: Zagat

by Rina Rapuano

Where: Restaurant Eve
What: Rhubarb brown butter “tart”
The Details: Rhubarb is poached in its own juices then plated with chamomile-steeped cream, a brown-butter tuile, brown-butter purée and granita made from the poaching liquid. It’s garnished with sorrel from the restaurant’s garden and micro basil.
Cost: $14

Two Black Belts in the Kitchen: Food & Wine

© John Kernick

by Daniel Gritzer

When they aren’t trying to kick other people in the head, F&W test kitchen pro Kay Chun and star Chef Cathal Armstrong are in the kitchen creating revitalizing recipes.

Crack, Crack. Cathal Armstrong unleashes a series of roundhouse kicks onto leather paddles held by Master Jason Yoo, his tae kwon do coach. His legs snap in rapid-fire sequence, high and low, striking powerfully where his opponent’s head and torso would be. Pop, crack, crack.

He shifts to bouncing lightly on his feet, his fists raised yet relaxed. Behind him comes Kay Chun, driving alternating side kicks into Master Yoo’s paddles. Thump. Step. Thump. Step.

Armstrong circles back around. He launches himself into the air in a whirling 360-degree spin, his legs whip, then his instep smacks right through one of the paddles. Pow.

Armstrong and Chun have never met before, but  F&W has brought them together for a tae kwon do training session followed by a bit of cooking. Armstrong was named an  F&W Best New Chef in 2006 for his refined Irish-French cooking at Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Virginia; Chun is an F&W Test Kitchen senior editor. As they talk, it becomes clear that despite their common interests, their journeys to this moment have been remarkably different.

For Armstrong, tae kwon do came as a midlife lifesaver. Entering his 40s and pushing 241 pounds, he found himself struggling with the demands of his growing restaurant empire. The stress and grueling physical nature of the work left him unable to control his temper in the kitchen. “My life felt like a bicycle with a loose wheel,” he says. “I was so out of shape, I’d drop my pen in the kitchen and couldn’t even bend down or crouch to pick it up. It was exhausting, that’d make me cranky and then I was just yelling at everyone all the time.”

The turning point came seven years ago, when his dad came to visit from Dublin. “He said, ‘Oh, my God, what happened to you?’” Armstrong recalls as he pulls up a cell phone photo of himself from around that time. It’s almost impossible to reconcile that image with the martial artist standing next to us today, a second-degree black belt who has twice won the national championships and once the US Open in his middleweight age class. It’s an impressive transformation, the result of a wholesale lifestyle change that includes eating smarter.

For Chun, there was no transformative moment. The daughter of the celebrated grand master Richard Chun, she was immersed in rigorous tae kwon do training from the age of five. Her father has taught legends like Muhammad Ali and was tapped to play Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid; unwilling to spend months in Hollywood away from his family, he turned the part down and helped train the film’s star, Ralph Macchio, instead.

As a child, Chun and her brother would commute with their father on Saturday mornings from New Jersey to his dojo on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. They’d help him prep the academy for the day’s classes, train all day and then wash the gym down at night. “It kind of sucked at the time, but I look back now and see it instilled in me something I wasn’t aware of then,” Chun says.

“With tae kwon do training, I learned to relax, to process more information at once,” Armstrong says. “I had a similar awakening in the kitchen.”
That something is a meticulous, disciplined approach to everything she undertakes. From learning how to do a particular kick to dicing an onion, she’s able to focus her mind on a physical task, repeating it over and over while honing the smallest details, a process that leads—in micro steps and plateaus—to mastery.

After taking a few minutes to cool down, Armstrong and Chun exchange their tae kwon do uniforms for aprons and make their way to the kitchen. Each has come with a few favorite pre- and post-workout recipes to share, and the similarity in their approaches is striking. They start by cooking Armstrong’s snapper with dashi broth. They crisp the fish skin side down and simmer kombu and bonito flakes in water to create the savory Japanese stock. “I’m cooking with a lot more Asian ingredients than I used to,” Armstrong muses. “The Asian lifestyle in general just seems to be healthier.” Chun agrees, thinking back to the Korean food she grew up eating and the way it still influences her cooking: “At home we ate just a little meat and then all these vegetables.”

Armstrong drizzles a creamy lime-spiked doenjang dressing around his snapper, adding funky depth and a pop of acidity, while Chun spoons a gingery vinaigrette onto poached chicken that’s so dense with herbs it’s practically a salad. It’s no accident both have chosen zingy vinaigrettes as their sauces. This is wholesome, clean, delicious cooking, the kind that leaves you sated yet energized.

There’s an easy calm as they work, which Armstrong says is now the norm in his restaurant kitchens. “When I started competing, I’d step into the ring and only see the fighter right in front of my eyes. With training, I learned to relax a little bit, see what’s happening around me and process more information at once. It makes everything clearer; I can think better,” he says. “I had a similar awakening in the kitchen. A cook can hunch over and not worry about the rest of the world, but a chef needs to be able to look up and see everything.”

Cultivating that mental clarity is what allows martial artists and chefs to perform at their best. Getting bogged down in distracting minutiae—whether about the scary number of dinner orders flying in at once or the flurry of punches hurtling toward your face—is the surest way to lose control. “The minute a thought comes into your mind, the rhythm and focus are gone, and then it’s all over,” Chun says. “The only thing you should be thinking about is letting your body go through its motions.”

That concept is called mindfulness or flow or even being in the zone. No matter the terminology, what’s important is the effect it describes. Before, when Armstrong’s pen would roll off the kitchen counter, he’d have to ask one of his cooks to pick it up for him. These days he’s more likely to snatch it in midair before he has even realized it’s falling, and it never hits the floor. 

Daniel Gritzer is culinary director at Serious Eats, a former F&W editor and an instructor of the Afro-Brazilian martial art capoeira.

via Food & Wine



50 Best Restaurants: Northern Virginia Magazine

Restaurant Eve
Modern American / $$$$ / 110 S. Pitt St., Alexandria

Who knew it would take the introduction of Filipino, Thai, Korean and Indian cuisines to reinvigorate one of the classic American dining rooms in the area? Thanks to chef and owner Cathal Armstrong’s wife’s Filipino heritage, the dashing, dark-haired Irishman added a family-style, multicourse Asian tasting menu to the more than decade-old Restaurant Eve. Dishes change often, and even those familiar with Asian cooking will find surprises, which is to be expected when a fine dining restaurant uses local, seasonal and well-sourced ingredients to turn into fiery and flavorful interpretations rooted in authenticity.

Eve’s regular menu shines brighter these days, too, and hints at the Asian inspiration. Pan-fried soft shells, situated with legs in the air like synchronized swimmers, dance in a heady red curry-coconut milk sauce showcasing an excellent and intricate balance of what is more or less a million ingredients.

Braised rabbit in a gravy-like sauce becomes the point of interest in a bowl of ricotta agnolotti, and a simple dessert of blackberry poached peach is peak summer gratification. Under Eve’s lead, will the reign of refined service and white tablecloths return?

via Northern Virginia Magazine

Opening Act | Virginia Living

photo by Virginia Living

Discover the appeal—slightly bitter, slightly sweet, fully invigorating—of the aperitif.

by Whitney Pipkin


Aperitifs 101

For novices, Society Fair in Alexandria is a good place for an aperitif primer. The market and eatery also sells about a dozen bottles of traditional aperitifs and offers tastings at a sprawling marble bar.

I recently pulled up a barstool to learn more from Thrasher, whose restaurant group opened this “boutique emporium” of food and drink three years ago.

It was Thrasher’s restaurant partner and chef Cathal Armstrong who first introduced him to aperitif culture. Armstrong, who is from Ireland, would often start his evenings with a glass of Lillet Blanc on ice and a twist of orange peel.

“He was the only person I knew that was really drinking that kind of stuff,” Thrasher says, as he pours me a glass of the same.

The taste is bright, slightly sweet with hints of vanilla and orange teased out by a sliver of peel. A combination of herbs and roots lends balance to the wine-based aperitif, which is made from white (Lillet Blanc) or red (Lillet Rouge) grapes. The brand also launched Lillet Rosé in 2011.

“How could you not like that?” Thrasher asks of the drink he calls “a gateway drug” to appreciating the broader category of aperitifs.

Lillet first romanced American drinkers in the 1930s and became “the star of every New York bar” by midcentury, according to a history of the brand on its website.

When Thrasher opened his speakeasy PX above Eamonn’s A Dublin Chipper in Alexandria almost 10 years ago, no one was ordering aperitifs.

One of the first cocktails on his menu, called Sweet Basil and inspired by an abundance of the herb that grows in Restaurant Eve’s kitchen garden, has remained ever since, thanks to the complex sweetness three ounces of Lillet imbues. It’s still one of his most popular drinks and one of 17 bottled cocktail mixes he sells at Society Fair.

While Lillet makes for a refreshing entry point to the family of aperitifs, some might prefer its stronger Italian cousin. Cocchi Aperitivo Americano captivated many craft cocktail bars when it first splashed onto the American scene about five years ago, lending a bitter edge to mixed drinks.

The wine-based drink is flavored with botanicals and, most importantly, cinchona bark, the original source of the bitter element called quinine that defines this genre of aperitifs (chinatis in Italian; quinquinas in French).

Three years ago, Thrasher says, he couldn’t imagine patrons walking into his speakeasy and ordering “a Cocchi on the rocks.”

“Now, you start to see it,” he says.

Read full story on Virginia Living

The college dropout who cooks for the stars | BBC News

Cathal Armstrong was 19 when he opened his first restaurant with his father in Dublin.

By Jane O'Brien

"It was a disaster from the beginning," he recalls. "We never had a business licence, we never had a health permit - who knew you needed such a thing? The walls started closing in and we began running out of money."

In less than a year the restaurant had closed.

"But no doubt I learned more in that ten month period than I would have learned in four years at college," he says.

That proved to be true. Over two decades later Mr Armstrong, now 46, runs Eat Good Food Group which operates Restaurant Eve, Eamonn's and Society Fair as well as a bar. The firm has an annual turnover of around $10m (£6.5m) and employs almost 150 staff.

With the restaurants located in Alexandria, Virginia just a few miles from the United States' capital, he has ended up cooking for film stars, presidents, millionaires and a host of other celebrities. He has also represented the US in Thailand, promoting American cuisine and sustainable food and has been named by the White House as a champion of change for supporting healthy school meals.

"Paying $200 for a fine meal in a restaurant is not overpriced - it's expensive," says Cathal Armstrong

Luck of the Irish?

So how did a college dropout and self-described bottle washer from Ireland end up becoming one of the most sought after chefs in a region obsessed with success, power and money?

Listening to Mr Armstrong describe his career it would be easy to attribute his rise to the luck of the Irish and a few chance encounters along the way. But the self-deprecating humour and easy-going charm disguise a steely business sense and a thorough knowledge of the restaurant industry gained by hard work and stamina.

Born in Dublin in 1969, Mr Armstrong grew up in a family that relished food. His father did most of the cooking and grew his own vegetables in the back garden. Dinner was an obligatory event that always included an appetiser, main course and dessert.

Cathal says he had "no clue" what he was doing when he began working in a high-end restaurant

When he was seven-years-old Mr Armstrong was sent alone on an exchange visit to France to learn French. The trip became a summer ritual and over the years he developed a passion for French cuisine.

He was less enthusiastic about college where he spent two months studying computer programming before dropping out. That's when his family decided America might be a good experience and packed him off to stay with friends in the Washington suburbs where he got a job at an Irish bar.

'I had no clue'

One thing led to another and after ignoring a summons home from his father, and winning a Green Card in the annual US government lottery, he was taken on at Vidalia, a high-end restaurant in the heart of Washington where he began learning the art of "serious cooking" and worked his way up the kitchen ranks.

"I really had no clue what I was doing," he says. "So many restaurants sear a piece of meat, put it onto a hot plate and then it goes into the oven. You take it out when you think it's cooked and hopefully you get medium rare or medium or whatever was ordered."

Vidalia had much higher standards as Mr Armstrong found out during his first New Year's Eve in the kitchen.

"At least 60 steaks were sent back over cooked. The chef finally gave up screaming at me because it was a disaster. Thankfully I wasn't fired. And sometimes an experience like that can be the best learning experience you're going to have. You just learn to figure it out. I went back in the next day, got back on the horse and started figuring it out."

Cathal Armstrong works alongside his wife Meshelle who is a restaurant manager

He figured things out so well that in 1998 the owner of Vidalia asked him to be the chef at Bistro Bis, a landmark restaurant on Capitol Hill and a favourite haunt of lawmakers and lobbyists.

"Over the course of my almost four years there I cooked for Hilary Clinton, Martina Navratilova, Tony Curtis and a long list of celebrities. When Michael J Fox and Mohammad Ali came to talk to Congress about Parkinson's disease, I fed them. It was a pretty amazing experience."

When famous American cook Julia Child turned up unannounced, she was so impressed she returned the following day.

"Cooking for all these celebrities, I started meeting people who had money and were interested in investing in me so we started looking for properties where we could open a restaurant."

Expensive not overpriced

But Mr Armstrong was cautious. When asked to borrow $4m as part of a finance package he balked: "I needed to sleep at night."

Eventually, in 2004, he and his wife Meshelle, a restaurant manager, opened Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Virginia. Backed by a group of local businessmen, they have taken on a more modest debt of $2m.

"In its heyday, before the bottom fell out of the economy in 2007, Restaurant Eve was fabulous and virtually ran itself. But the luxury dining industry took a relatively big hit with the drop in the economy and hasn't really recovered that well.

"I find myself having to explain to people the difference between overpriced and expensive. Overpriced is paying $2 for a can of sugary water. Paying $200 for a fine meal in a restaurant is not overpriced - it's expensive."

President Obama paid a surprise visit in 2011 when he and the first lady celebrated their wedding anniversary.

Mr Armstrong had taken a rare day off work when the restaurant's general manager called him at home. "He said, you have to come in, the President is going to be here in half an hour.

"I got to the restaurant and all hell was breaking loose. There was security everywhere but they sat down at a table and had dinner in the dining room with everybody else. The only thing they did that was unusual was to ask the guests in the bar not to move while they were coming and going. Other than that you wouldn't have noticed there was a small army surrounding them!"

Despite his success, in a typical week Mr Armstrong still works between 90 and 100 hours.

"It's a tough business. You do it because you love it and because it's fun. I initially believed that it wasn't important - it's just dinner, you're not curing cancer or sending people to the moon.
"But I realised that being sustainable and environmentally conscious is important and that we can influence people - even the president of the United States - with the food that we're serving. So it is important and not just dinner after all."

Dining at Restaurant Eve? Here’s What to Drink | Washingtonian

Nikki Gulick, Restaurant Eve's sommelier

We've got wine recommendations at every price point for Cathal and Meshelle Armstrong's Old Town dining room.

By Scott Greenberg on September 9, 2015

At Cathal and Meshelle Armstrong’s elegant Old Town dining room Restaurant Eve, the menu draws from a diverse set of influences: there’s Meshelle’s Filipino heritage, plus chef Cathal’s classical French training and the homespun Irish staples he grew up on. The wine list, overseen by sommelier Nikki Gulick, features several standout local gems as well as an impressive selection of Old World white wines (Burgundy, Alsace, and the Loire Valley). Here’s our advice for finding just the right glass or bottle.

If you’re getting the tempura soft-shell crabs with red curry: The 2012 Jean-Marc Brocard Chardonnay from Chablis ($15 a glass) greets your tongue with flavors of Meyer lemon, yellow peach, and baking spices. A crisp finish accentuates the crab. If a few people at the table are ordering soft shells, consider grabbing a bottle ($60) of 2013 Michael Shaps ‘Honah Lee Vineyard’ Petite Manseng. Produced in Charlottesville, the dry white offers up lush notes of red delicious apple, ripe pear, and a little tropical-fruit sweetness.

If you’re trying the quail with fava bean purée, cornmeal pancakes, and chanterelles: Game birds just seem to flock to Rhone reds, so the 2011 Domaine de la Janasse Cotes du Rhone Villages ($11 a glass) works nicely. The masterful, full-bodied blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre has a spice-laced black- and red-fruit core and a touch of black licorice. The 2012 Château De Saint Cosme Rhone Blend ($96 a bottle) from Gigondas—which has excellent depth and an appealing finish with lingering spiciness—is a fantastic pick to share with the table.

If you’re getting the veal sweetbreads with braised yellow roma beans and veal jus: A French dish made in Virginia calls for a wine made by a Virginian in France, like the 2009 Maison Michael Shaps Pinot Noir ($19 a glass). It is full of cinnamon and orange peel on the nose and red cherry and red plum in the mouth. If you’re looking for a bottle, consider the 2011 Cristom ‘Sommers Reserve’ Pinot Noir ($78) from the Willamette Valley. I think Steve Doerner is one of the most thoughtful winemakers in Oregon, and he crafts a Pinot Noir that is both intense and charming, with notes of raspberry, mocha, and cola.

If you’re ordering the panang curry with soft tofu and pork belly: This dish presents a bit of a challenge. Since it’s very spicy, it could use the cooling elements of an off-dry white, but also the spicier attributes associated with a red. I turned to Nikki Gulick for some advice. “Alsace!” she said. “Spicy Thai dishes and Alsatian whites need each other. Oh, the stories I could tell of saving a meal by convincing a guest to switch from their oak-bomb to an off-dry white.” I like the 2010 Domaine Paul Blanck Auxerrois ($16 a glass), a wine that complements food like an off-dry Riesling, but also has the body of a Chardonnay. If you’re going to splurge on this course, do it with the 2012 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht ‘Clos Windsbuhl’ Gewürztraminer ($170 a bottle), which also hails from Alsace. This is a wine that I collect, and I was thrilled to see it on the list. It captures the essence of ripe tropical fruits (think pineapple, guava, and lychee) and is enhanced by a touch of cloves and honeysuckle on the finish.

And if you’re looking for that one bottle to make everyone at the table happy: The 2004 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 Tinto($120 a bottle) from Spain is Gulick’s pick: “This is one of my favorite wines ever. So complex, almost floral. It’s a very flexible wine for food, so if the husband is getting arctic char and you’re having steak, it’s a perfect compromise.”

ia Washingtonian