November 11, 2010 at 2:50 pm EST | by William George
Best of the bounty

Cooking sensation Paula Deen will be in Washington this weekend for a show at the Convention Center. (Photo courtesy of Paula Deen)

Rustico’s (4075 Wilson Blvd, Arlington) new location gives chain-clogged Ballston a big boost, offering seasonal, hearth-cooked New American fare designed to complement its major forte, beer – expect 400 craft and imported bottles, 40 drafts and three casks (much of it available in 4 ounce tasting pours); the handsome, earth-toned digs are sexily lit and comfortably configured, with a dining room overlooking a courtyard and fountain, communal tables and a massive bar with street-scene views, not to mention a lovely, candlelit private-dining space.

There will be a new Barracks Row eatery called DC-3, named after the passenger plane that popularized “Discover America” air travel. The latest project from the Matchbox and Ted’s Bulletin crew, the restaurant will feature a stainless-steel counter resembling an airplane wing, which will dispense regional, charcoal-grilled hot dogs, while a huge wall map pinpoints the origin of menu choices like Maine’s Red Snapper, the Cincinnati Cheese Coney, the New Jersey deep-fried Ripper, the Tucson Sonoran Dog and, of course, the D.C. Half-Smoke. Cotton candy will be spun on the spot and soft-serve ice cream with old-timey toppings will help take customers back to simpler times. Expect it to open in a few weeks (423 Eighth St. S.E.).

Chef Frank Ruta – whose French- and Italian-influenced cooking at New American Palena in Cleveland Park wows diners – is in the middle of an extensive renovation project that will increase the dining area by half. The light-filled taupe dining room – with its original 1920 terrazzo floor newly gleaming – will be devoted to the chef’s value priced bistro menu. Guests can pass the time at the bar by trying to find oysters embedded in its Jerusalem blue marble top. Best of all, according to Ruta, is his new kitchen featuring an imported wood-burning oven, which allowed him to develop new dishes. There’s also a wood-burning grill destined to elevate hamburgers that many already consider the best in town.

Ruta hopes to open the annex by mid-November. Later this year, he will debut a small retail operation for takeaway breakfast and market items. The intimate fine-dining room in the original space will continue to serve prix fixe and tasting menus, while the original bistro space will remain dedicated to the newly expanded menu.

One restaurant named for a fruit leads to another for Persimmon’s chef-owner Damian Salvatore, whose neighborhood-oriented Wild Tomato will soon be serving pizza, salads and moderately priced American entrees to the Potomac food crowd. Big front windows, buttery yellow walls, a sage-colored stone bar and mahogany butcher-block tables, along with food-focused artwork, will create an attractive ambiance for casual dining and informal get-togethers over cocktails, craft beers and wines (7945 MacArthur Blvd.).

If you watch Food Network, chances are you’ve seen a competition show about restaurants on wheels. CapMac, a roving pastaria, will be hitting D.C. streets in the next few weeks, serving signature mac ‘n’ pimento cheese, chicken Parmesan meatballs and ziti, and whole-wheat noodles with beans and seasonal vegetables, along with hearty soups and desserts. It’s the brainchild of chef Brian Arnoff, who brings talents honed at Bourbon Steak and Boston’s Sportello to the burgeoning local food-truck scene. Arnoff says he was inspired by the macaroni stands that once lined the streets of New York’s Little Italy to make authentic and affordable fresh food.

The general public can take a weekend to splurge and let out its collective belts at the 2010 Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show, happening Saturday and Sunday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. More than 300 specialty food, beer and wine sellers, caterers and party planners will be exhibiting and many will offer samples for grazing. Local talents will join celebrity chefs Bobby Flay, Paula Deen and Rachael Ray for food demos. There will be a separate beer, wine and spirits tasting pavilion, a sit-down wine dinner with “Top Chef” finalist Carla Hall, workshops and an area for the kids. General admission (which lets you cruise the exhibits and some demonstrations) is $25 per person ($13 per child 4–12) with additional charges for other features (801 Mount Vernon Pl. N.W.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.).

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