Don’t Miss: 2017 RAMMY Awards Gala @ Washington Convention Center, 7/30/17

Erik Bruner-Yang Competes in 2013
Erik Bruner-Yang, above, competes in the DC Central Kitchen Capital Food Fight in 2013. Erik is a finalist in Chef of the Year for the 2017 RAMMY Awards. (Photo by DC Central Kitchen)

The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington presents the 2017 RAMMY Awards at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Sunday, July 30! You can buy a ticket to this black-tie gala and enjoy the finest food and drink in DC during 20 awards presentations, including Chef of the Year and Restaurateur of the Year. Buy your tickets online!

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Food Park: Second Anniversary Party @ Duke’s Grocery — 9/16/15

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Daniel Kramer (second from right) appeared on Good Morning Washington today to chat about Oktoberfest.

Today is National Cheeseburger Day, and tomorrow is the beginning of Oktoberfest.

That means it’s a good weekend for one Washingtonian in particular: Daniel Kramer, co-owner of Duke’s Grocery (1513 17th St. NW, DC) in Dupont, home of one of the city’s best cheeseburgers, and organizer of the District Oktoberfest party in Chinatown, which offers eight beers at eight bars with one ticket.

Daniel wowed a private party of his guests for the second anniversary of Duke’s Grocery on Wednesday, offering a tasty buffet inspired by the Duke’s menu and an open bar that included Warsteiner Oktoberfest along with other beers, wine and cocktails for guests.

The buffet offered sliders that were a dead ringer to your mouth for the full-sized Proper Burger, which consists of a thin burger topped with Gouda, chili sauce, aioli, pickles and arugula. Washingtonian magazine today named it one of the “most crave-worthy cheeseburgers around DC.”

In addition to the “Proper Sliders,” the buffet offered an assortment of charcuterie, hummus and Asian spring rolls.

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The knowledgeable Matt Loscolzo guided guests through tequila tastings.

In the upstairs bar at Duke’s, Daniel will occasionally host tastings of select liquors, and Wednesday’s party was a great opportunity to do just that. Matt Loscalzo, sales rep for Washington Wholesale, served up a popular selection of Roca Patron tequila — including the Patron Silver (unaged tequila), Patron Reposado (aged up to six months), and Patrol Anejo (aged up to a year).

It was a fantastic party all by itself, but the best thing about it is that it heralds another year of Duke’s Grocery. Congratulations, Daniel!

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A great buffet included the Proper Burger — albeit in “slider” form.

Food Park: Alex McCoy @ Food Network Star, 6/7/15

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Alex McCoy is ready for the world in competition as the next Food Network Star. (Photo courtesy Food Network)

On Sunday, the Food Network debuts the new season of an 11-week series, Food Network Star, which will feature 12 chefs competing to become the next host at the Food Network. (Catch it on Sunday, June 7, at 9pm ET.)

Normally, we might not get too excited about such a thing, but one of the 12 chefs in the competition is DC’s own Alex McCoy, who started up Duke’s Grocery (1513 17th St. NW, DC) in Dupont Circle and recently left it to open new ventures in the city.

Chefs participating in the program are required to demonstrate great skills in the kitchen but also to dazzle on camera under the guidance of Food Network hosts Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis.

Alex appeared on Good Morning Washington on Tuesday morning to discuss the show and to share secrets of using leftover BBQ meat to make a quick Thai meal. Watch him in action:

Regardless of the outcome of Food Network Star, Alex plans to open two DC restaurants in the near future with his business partner Hunter Campbell, who has been establishing nightlife venues like the Mason Inn in Glover Park and the Chinese Disco in Georgetown in recent years. Last month, Tim Carman of the Washington Post broke the news of the new restaurants, revealing one would feature Asian food from Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand, and the other would likely be more of a gastropub, similar to Duke’s Grocery.

In an interview with Tim, Alex said he hoped his Asian place would be similar to expat bars he encountered in Thailand while on a journey there earlier this year.

Tim Carman wrote, “[E]xpat pubs are spaces where cultures intersect and collide with neither conflict nor ceremony…. It is this atmosphere that McCoy wants to recreate with his own, still-unnamed Southeast Asian restaurant.”

I interviewed Alex last year for a feature on his background for We Love DC, where the chef discussed how he likes to see places up close and personal to get his hands dirty with making cuisine associated with certain cultures.

“In many cases, unless you’ve seen someone making that dish in its element and in the place it was created, it’s really hard to respect food the way food should be respected,” Alex told me.

So regardless of how well he does in the Food Network competition, we are looking forward to some delicious food from our globetrotting friend here in DC in the very near future.

But meanwhile: Go, Alex! My money is on you as the next Food Network Star.

Food Park: Voting for RAMMY Awards Thru 4/28/15

Le Diplomate

The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington has been holding an open ballot for the public to vote on four categories for restaurants receiving RAMMY Awards, and voting closes at midnight tomorrow, Tuesday, April 28.

Anyone can visit the Washington City Paper at http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/food/rammys/ to vote in the four categories of Favorite Gathering Place, Upscale Brunch, Everyday Casual Brunch and Favorite Fast Bites.

Here are the categories and nominees for each as well as our pick to win (feel free to make our pick your own!):

The finalists for Favorite Gathering Place of the Year:
• Bar Pilar (1833 14th St. NW, DC)
• Cashion’s Eat Place (1819 Columbia Rd. NW, DC)
• ChurchKey (1337 14th St. NW #2, DC)
• Et Voila! (5120 MacArthur Blvd. NW, DC)
• Evening Star Café (2000 Mt Vernon Ave., Alexandria, Va.)

Our pick: Bar Pilar. We are kinda partial to places that honor Ernest Hemmingway in addition to being centrally located and all around cozy.

The finalists for Favorite Fast Bites:
• Cava Grill – Bethesda Row (4832 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda, Md.)
• DCity Smokehouse (8 Florida Ave. NW, DC)
• G by Mike Isabella (2201 14th St. NW, DC)
• Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza – Friendship Heights (4940 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC)
• Red Apron Butcher – Union Market (1309 5th St. NE, DC)

Our pick: DCity Smokehouse. How can you say no to the absolute best BBQ in the city?

The finalists for Upscale Casual Brunch of the Year:
• Birch & Barley (1337 14th St. NW, DC)
• Kapnos – DC (2201 14th St. NW, DC)
• Le Diplomate (1601 14th St. NW, DC)
• The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm (42461 Lovettsville Rd., Lovettsville, Va.)
• Seasons at The Four Seasons (2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC)

Our pick: Le Diplomate. Le Diplomate is le delicious. (We know that’s not proper French, but we do love the place.)

The finalists for Everyday Casual Brunch of the Year:
• Beuchert’s Saloon (623 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, DC)
• The Daily Dish (8301A Grubb Rd., Silver Spring, Md.)
• DGS Delicatessen (1317 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC)
• Duke’s Grocery (1513 17th St. NW, DC)
• The Liberty Tavern (3195 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Va.)

Our pick: Duke’s Grocery. Not only do they have one of the most impressive burgers in the city, but the proper English breakfast is absolutely, devastatingly yummy.

The Restaurant Association will announce winners at the 33rd Annual RAMMY Awards Gala on Sunday, June 7, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Around Town: Best of DC Reader’s Poll @ Washington City Paper (Through 3/23/15)

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The Proper Burger from Duke’s Grocery

In an unusually competitive year, the Washington City Paper has extended voting in seven of its categories for its Best of DC Readers’ Poll. The special extended voting on the poll’s highly popular categories will extend through 11:59pm on Monday, March 23.

Said the City Paper, “These seven categories were so competitive, we’re giving you extra time to decide the winners.

The finalists for each category were the top vote-getters in this year’s poll. Vote for your favorite.”

The seven categories and their semi-finalists are below. I’ve included some light commentary to reveal my votes. I’m not suggesting that it should sway your vote, but don’t let it stop you if you’re looking for suggestions!

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Grapevine: Chef Alex McCoy Departs @ Duke’s Grocery

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Chef Alex McCoy, one of Duke’s Grocery’s three founding partners

Alex McCoy, former chef and founding partner at Duke’s Grocery, left the Dupont Circle-area gastropub in December and plans to open a new restaurant focused on southeast Asian food, Tim Carman of The Washington Post reported Monday.

On his Facebook page Monday, McCoy said, “Friends, after a year and a half of working with my awesome partners over at Duke’s Grocery, I am excited to announce that I will be leaving to work on a new project in the DC area. You guys and gals have been legends and I appreciate all of the amazing support you have given myself and the Duke’s family. The team is still working hard in the Duke’s kitchen and the burgers are still flippin’! 2015 is going to be a very tasty year!”

Carman delivered the scoop on McCoy’s new project: “a restaurant that will focus on Southeast Asian cooking, continuing the District’s trend of opening eateries that channel the authentic flavors of Thailand, Laos and other countries.”

McCoy vowed to travel throughout southeast Asia over the next few months to refine his menu, which comes as no surprise to me, as the chef is very fond of traveling to a dish’s country of origin before he perfects it, as he told me a few months ago.

Daniel Kramer, another co-founder at Duke’s, announced Rick Koplau, who has been overseeing the late night food program at Duke’s Grocery, will become head chef. Koplau previously worked at Ritz-Carlton Hotels in Lake Tahoe and Sarasota, along with stints in England, Germany and Poland.