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Tasty temptations

If the dog days have you zapped, refresh with these scintillating summery concoctions



summer dining, gay news, Washington Blade

Ginger Lemon Stack Cake will be featured at the Christmas in July event at RareSweets Bakery. (Photo by Scott Suchman; courtesy RareSweets)

As it starts to get toward the end of July, there’s a seemingly endless supply of Code Orange days while vacation time starts to dwindle away, making it increasingly difficult to get inspired to do, well, anything.

With that in mind, here’s a collection of a few ways to rouse yourself out of the stupor created by the mid-summer doldrums before autumn starts to make its first tentative appearances. Face it, lower humidity and temperatures sounds pretty nice right about now, but you’ll miss kicking back with a chilled rosé in your flip flops soon enough, so don’t let the heat keep you stuck indoors.

Put on your shoulder-baring best and head to Pamplona (3100 Clarendon Blvd, Arlington; for Sundresses and Sangria Day on Sunday, July 23 from 2-7 p.m., where you can sink right down into a frozen sangria or three. Try some of the pinxtos on offer, such as smoked mussel escabeche and butternut squash and artichoke caponata on crostini; there’ll be plenty of featured sangria by the pitcher, including roja, bianca, rosé, sparkling rosé or white, and a seasonal watermelon sangria. And, of course, frozen white and — our favorite — frosé.

If you are indeed longing for cooler days, then Meredith Tomason, pastry chef and owner of RareSweets in CityCenterDC (963 Palmer Alley;, aims to please with her Christmas in July celebration from July 24-29. You’ll find the bakery — decked out in full holiday attire and piping holiday music — stocked with special holiday-inspired menu items. The Instagrammable “Elves on Vacation” shortbread cookies are a standout, along with Tomason’s signature ginger and lemon stack cake, eggnog ice cream and frozen hot chocolate.

Chef and sommelier Danny Lledó is offering up a taste of Spain at Slate Wine Bar+Bistro (2404 Wisconsin Ave., N.W.; on July 22-29 and Aug. 5, with his interactive dinner series, Dreaming of Dénia. Cozy up to the chef’s table for $45 per person ($25 wine pairing optional), where Chef Lledó will demonstrate his paella technique while serving up a five-course menu that reflect his Spanish and Portuguese heritage.

Some of the planned dishes include Figatell de carranc i sépia (crab and cuttlefish cake), Paella de Dénia (fish stock ‘bomba’ rice dish with calamari, shrimp and mussels), and a dessert featuring Profiterol, gelat de turró de Xixona i xocholat (house-made profiterol, turrón ice cream and chocolate ganache).

Get out of your rut by keeping an eye on the social media accounts (or sign up for email alerts) for i Ricchi (1220 19th St., N.W.;, because any pleasant sunny afternoon could signal one of chef/owner Christianne Ricchi’s signature Pop Up Piazza Parties. The Dupont Circle restaurant’s patio is transformed on these random occasions to a neighborhood gathering, anchored by live music, complimentary cocktails and special tastings, making it a spontaneous way to while away a summer evening.

Did you know that Thursday, Aug. 3 is National Watermelon Day? Neither did we, but Lincoln (1110 Vermont Ave., N.W.;, Teddy & The Bully Bar (1200 19th St., N.W.; and Declaration (804 V St., N.W.; are planning a plethora of signature watermelon cocktails in celebration, created by beverage director Tammy Vodinh. While the libations will be available for the whole month of August, you’ll find them for half-price on Aug. 3, including the Wicky at Declaration — a Watermelon Rickey made with Cuca Fresca Cachaça and a jalapeno-watermelon soda — and the Alpine Summer Punch at Lincoln, a shareable concoction of chamomile tea, watermelon juice and Dolin Genepy).

For a perfect glass of premium bubbly, tasty nibbles and spectacular views, there’s no better spot to be on Aug. 10 than the rooftop of the building that houses BLT Steak (1625 I St., N.W.; You’ll be greeted by beverage director James Nelson and sommelier Jamie Stevens, who will take you on a journey through different regions and varietals as part of their Wines Over Washington event. If you can’t make it in August, you can still catch the views and tasting on Sept. 14 and Oct. 12; $65 (excluding gratuity), make reservations by contacting Beau Monroe at 202-689-8989 or

Finally, if you’d like to get your hands dirty — well, floury — then try to snag a spot in executive pastry chef Alex Levin’s class, Learn To Bake Summer Pies. The hands-on class will be on Saturday, Aug. 5 from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. at Casolare Restaurant and Bar (2505 Wisconsin Ave., N.W.;, and the $65 price tag includes lunch, a hands-on demonstration, and, even better, a freshly baked pie to bring home.

Levin will help you master pie crust techniques and focus on summer fruit fresh from the farmer’s market, and will even help create a personalized recipe just for you based on your favorite flavor combinations. Look for the class on to register.


Kristen Hartke is a DC-based food and beverage writer; follow her kitchen adventures on Instagram, @kristenhartke.



Annie’s celebrates 75th anniversary

Local institution a place of community and acceptance for LGBTQ patrons



The local community celebrated Annie’s last weekend. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

George Katinas, a child of immigrants, opened Paramount Steakhouse in 1948 on the corner of 17th and Church streets, N.W. (where JR.’s is currently located). Three-quarters of a century later, the restaurant has changed its name and location, received accolades from the city and James Beard, and was deservedly feted last weekend. His son Paul now owns the restaurant, and runs Annie’s today with his daughter Georgia Katinas.

George ran the restaurant with his sisters, but it was a singular sister Annie who coaxed the restaurant into its status as a place of community and acceptance for the growing LGBTQ population in Dupont Circle. Katinas renamed the restaurant for her. When there were desperately few areas of safety, Annie’s stood out, and does still today.

Last Saturday, Annie’s pulled out all the stops for an all-day party under a brilliantly sunny sky. The clouds parted for the celebration, bringing together government officials, longtime customers, and families with new fans. A rainbow balloon arch perched across the 17th Street sidewalk.

Drag artists Kimberly Di’Nitta, Victoria Di’Nitta, Jayzeer Shantey, Genocide Abrasax and Candi H. Fuentes performed, Miss Gay Arlington greeted fans, and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington sang several renditions a capela for the crowd – including “Happy Birthday” over an enormous cake with sparkler candles (Annie’s has been a longtime supporter of the Gay Men’s Chorus).

“Taking a moment to sing happy birthday with Potomac Fever Group of Gay Men’s Chorus, this moment was so emotional,” said Georgia.

Anne’s set up a swag tent, selling collectible pint glasses featuring caricatures of the Annie’s family, like George and Annie herself. There was also a raffle, carnival snacks, and sidewalk games like a pie walk and martini race.

Vincent Slatt of Rainbow History Project was there to take it all in. Armed with a microphone, he interviewed partygoers to talk about why Annie’s was meaningful to them on the occasion of the anniversary.

In 2019, the James Beard Foundation announced that Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse, won the America’s Classic award for the Mid-Atlantic region (Ben’s Chili Bowl has also won this award). These awards are given “to locally owned restaurants that have timeless appeal and are beloved regionally for quality food that reflects the character of its community,” according to the James Beard website.

“Annie’s became home, and was there when there weren’t too many other opportunities or places to go,” says owner Paul Katinas (George’s son) in a previous interview. Annie’s also developed a strong relationship with the Washington Blade after the newspaper was founded in 1969.

After the outdoor festivities closed at 6 p.m., the party moved inside to Annie’s upper level for an appropriately festive afterparty.

Georgia notes that the anniversary “gave us a moment to reflect and think about how much has changed in 75 years, yet how much we’ve kept Annie’s the same. It’s a reason to celebrate and reflect. We’re so grateful for the support of our regulars.”

As for the next 25 years? Georgia says that the restaurant industry will be affected by the new tipped-wage law, but is adamant that Annie’s will remain.

“We will preserve what we have, honor our past, while making new memories.”

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Delectable debuts on the D.C. dining scene

Jose Andres triumphs, Mi Vida expands, and more



The Square (1850 K St.) is D.C.’s newest food market.

This year is already turning out to be a dynamic one for dining and nightlife. The effects of the pandemic, inflation, and the supply chain are still being felt, but there is a sense of optimism with a host of new openings for the first half of the year. And this season, of course, is often defined by cherry blossoms. Peak bloom is predicted for March 22-25, and festival activities begin on March 18. Enjoy all the pink, and read on for some dining highlights for the first few months of 2023.


Jose Andres triumphantly returned to the Old Post Office building in a coup for the celebrity restaurateur. The building, which is now a Waldorf Astoria hotel, most recently housed a hotel run by the organization of a disgraced former president. Andres had his eyes on the space for two decades and was set to open a restaurant there, but refused because of the new owner. Bazaar, which opened in February, serves sophisticated Spanish cuisine. It has locations in Los Angeles and Miami, plating specialty dishes like Iberico ham with caviar.

Uncaged Mimosas

It’s all flowers and bubbles at Uncaged Mimosas in Truxton Circle, which opened in February. Here, brunch is served every day of the week. Chef Damian Brown pours 20-plus kinds of mimosas, with flights available, plus frozen daiquiris. Neon signs, fake flowers and vines, and lots of color gives it a permanent party vibe. Brunch dishes include chicken and waffles, salmon and grits, and red velvet pancakes.


Ambar, one of the only all-you-can-eat dinner restaurants in the region, is opening its second spot in D.C. proper and third in the area. The new two-story restaurant, which opened March 6, sits in Shaw across from Dacha. Owner Ivan Iricanin brings in dishes from across the Balkans, like hearty country slow-cooked dishes from the interior, to seafood specialties from the Mediterranean. There are more than 60 bottles of wine from the Balkans, plus fruit-infused rakia, the popular Balkan spirit. Ambar offers unlimited prix-fixe brunch, lunch, and dinner menus, with optional drink pairings at brunch and dinner.

Owl Room

The U Street Corridor welcomes this new nightlife destination in the former Marvin space on March 10. Run by Marvin owner Eric Hilton and others, Owl Room has transformed the spot into more of a music and concert venue, with a dance floor and stage that will feature live music and DJ sets. The upstairs has a more relaxed patio for cocktails.

Mi Vida

Gay-owned KNEAD Hospitality + Design continues to expand its Mexican hit restaurant, Mi Vida, with a new outpost set to open in April in Penn Quarter. This will be the largest Mi Vida to date, boasting a huge 10,000-square-foot space. Design flourishes include the iconic tree of life that has been showcased at all three locations, as well as a new custom rope art installation by Mexican artisans.


On the southern end of Adams Morgan, Alfresco is a new “American tap and grill” restaurant from the owners of Lauriol Plaza, located just down 18th Street. The 300-plus seat restaurant is set to open in April. Its menu is a distinct departure from Lauriol’s Mexican food; this one serves sandwiches, pizza, pasta, salads, and steaks. True to its name, there is a central courtyard with a retractable pergola roof, as well as two other outdoor patio seating spaces.

Van Leeuwen

New York import Van Leeuwen Ice Cream and its super premium brand of dessert is opening three shops in the next few months: Union Market (418 Morse St. NE), Adams Morgan (2421 18th St. NW), and Georgetown (3245 Prospect St. NW). Founded in 2008 as a New York City ice cream truck, Van Leeuwen is known for both traditional and vegan ice creams. Unique flavors include mac ’n cheese and honeycomb. These are its first shops in D.C., though there are more than 20 across the country.

The Square

The Square (1850 K St.) will be D.C.’s newest food market, opening later this year. The Square is slated to open in 2023 within International Square, and will feature a collection of more than 15 artisanal food vendors, a full-service restaurant and bar, an expansive bar in the central atrium, and outdoor dining seating, plus retail. Richie Brandenburg and Rubén García co-founded The Square, both well-established chefs, bring globally inspired food to the expansive food hall.


While not falling into the food sphere, the opening of Bunker has upended nightlife destinations for the LGBTQ community in D.C. Kinetic Productions owners Zach Renovatés and Jesus Quispe debuted the subterranean spot in late February, bringing in local and national DJs, dancers, drag queens, and entertainment. The bar/club is open Thursday-Sunday, playing different music genres each night.

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D.C. restaurants offer something for everyone this Valentine’s Day

From romantic prix-fixe options to a ‘single AF mixer’



Try the 40-layer lasagne at L’Ardente. (Photo by Mike Fuentes Photography)

Whatever Valentine’s Day means to you, there are plenty of places around D.C. for an excellent prix-fixe dinner or raging party with pals/gals/side pieces. Below are just a few options for what’s available:

Couple Options

Hot new French restaurant L’Ardente and its infamous 40-layer lasagne is offering an extended Valentine’s Day dinner, from Friday, Feb. 10, through Tuesday, Feb. 14. Couples can choose from the regular menu or a five-course tasting menu ($250 for two), which includes passion fruit caviar martinis.

Sababa Cleveland Park will serve a four-course, prix-fixe menu for two on Feb. 14. The menu ($120 for two) includes beet hummus, heart of palm salad, and a date tahini tart (and lots of romance-themed puns).

Cafe Riggs, in the Riggs Hotel, is serving not just a dessert special, but also a hotel package. Hotel guests can enjoy a Valentine’s Brunch in Bed enhancement with the option to a build-your-own mimosa flight or coffee while enjoying a Petit Déjeuner (French continental breakfast) in your room. Reservations are available through OpenTable

Lyle’s, in the Lyle Hotel, will offer a prix-fixe dinner menu at $85 per person that will be available the weekend before and after Valentine’s Day as well as on the holiday. Reservations are available through OpenTable.

Ellington Park Bistro, in the St. Gregory Hotel, is offering a Valentine’s Day menu as well as the regular a la carte menu. The menu will highlight sweet flavors, and includes dishes such as Butternut Squash Soup, Sweet Shrimp Wontons, and Raspberry and White Chocolate. Reservations available through OpenTable.

The Fairmont Georgetown is offering a decadent Valentine’s Afternoon Tea on Feb. 11, 12, and 14 inside overlooking the courtyard, with petit fours, scones, and savory sandwiches like an oak-smoked cheddar and spiced pear chutney. Tea is served from 1-4 p.m. ($75 per person), with the option to add a glass of G.H. Mumm Champagne.

Nicoletta Italian Kitchen will host a Valentine’s Day Pizza Class on Feb. 11, teaching everyone to make their own heart-shaped pie, while enjoying arancini and wine. And for those looking for something a little less hands-on, Nicoletta will offer a special Valentine’s Day menu on Feb. 14, complete with heart-shaped pizzas (made by the chef this time), as well as three special dishes – a clam appetizer, calzone, and lobster raviolo.

Waldorf Astoria Washington DC in the storied and renamed Old Post Office has an old-school option to “pen letters of love over dinner to share with a special someone.” Valentine’s Day guests will all receive a custom piece of stationary at their time of seating in addition to a menu of inventive dishes with a selection of elevated ingredients. Reservations can be made on SevenRooms.

Immigrant Food+ is serving a three-course menu for two, with options for vegetarian and pescatarian guests. There’s also a featured wine list from all female growers/winemakers including a special Galentine’s Day Flight of a Brut, white, and red.

Non-Couple Options

Brookland’s Finest Bar & Kitchen will offer a special “Salty & Bitter” bar menu over Valentine’s Day weekend, complete with salty snacks and bitter beverages. Snacks include chicken fingers and pretzel bites with truffle oil; drinks include espresso martinis and black Manhattans.

El Techo is throwing a Broken Hearts Club this Valentine’s Day (2/14). The tropical oasis rooftop is “helping single guests nurse their wounds” with a free shot of tequila for everyone who goes by on Feb. 14. It’s also offering a Taco Tuesday deal, which features three tacos and choice of a margarita or beer for $22.

Washingtonians that find themselves ready to mingle this year can head to Fight Club’s Anti-Commitment Ball on Saturday, Feb. 11. The party, from 8 p.m.-1 a.m., will feature DJ Daniel Biltmore spinning live tunes, food/drink specials, and Jell-O shots. Tickets not required. Food and drink items available a la carte.

The National Union Building at 918 F St. is bringing out its “certified fun sommelier” for a wine tasting event. Two sessions (Feb. 12 and Feb 13, both 6:30 p.m.) offer six wines, from fizzy to deep, dark red. Bottles will be available for purchase to take home. Tickets are $35-$45 through Eventbrite.

NoMa’s WunderGarten is hosting a “Nice Try Cupid Anti-Valentine’s Day Single AF Mixer” on Feb. 14, 7-11 p.m. Tickets are free but reservations recommended via Eventbrite.

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