Chef Cathal Armstrong
I am very proud that one of America’s top chefs is Dublin born Cathal Armstrong, owner of seven restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area and a James Beard nominee. I have been reading about him and his recipes in national food magazines such as “Food and Wine” for years. I promised myself that the next time I was in the Washington, D.C. area I would make my way to Old Town Alexandria to eat at one of his restaurants. Last week, I was fortunate enough to eat at the two restaurants named for his children — the counter service “Eamonn’s, a Dublin Chipper” and the very elegant Restaurant Eve. “Food and Wine” called him “a one-man urban renewal engine” for revitalizing the Alexandria restaurant scene using French techniques and local produce. Friends who live in the area confirm that food options in the historic D.C. suburb were dull before he opened his first restaurant ten years ago. I admire his commitment to the environment by cooking with local, sustainably sourced ingredients — going so far as to plant a garden at his restaurant — and only using environmentally friendly products at this establishments. He was recognized by the White House as a “Champion of Change” for establishing an organization called Chefs as Parents to promote healthy school lunches.
With its $120 dinner tasting menu, for me Restaurant Eve would normally rank as a special occasion restaurant. Fortunately, it offers a fantastic deal at lunchtime in the lounge — the “lickety-split” lunch is an unbelievable $14.95 for two courses. I ate a velvety asparagus soup made with local, first of the season asparagus, shallots, cream, wine and olive oil that was spring in a bowl and very tasty pork rillettes with a grainy mustard sauce and toasted baquette.
There was quite a crowd in the lounge even after 1 p.m. on a Thursday. Because I was alone, they were able to squeeze me in at the bar. Supporting my theory that this is often the best seat in the house, a conversation with my dining neighbor, a Restaurant Eve regular, led to an introduction to Chef Armstrong who signed my copy of his cookbook, “My Irish Table.” Co-written with David Hagedorn and published by Ten Speed Press, it includes his take on homey and sophisticated Irish dishes along with recipes from Restaurant Eve. For more information on the book see the web site: http://www.myIrishtable.com.
This past weekend I tried his very easy version of the classic Marie Rose sauce — an indispensable component of the Dublin Bay Prawn Cocktail. The rosy sauce is simply mayonnaise, ketchup and lemon juice. It’s a wonderful accompaniment to seafood. I don’t understand why it’s not served more often in the States. I substituted large, gulf shrimp for the Dublin Bay prawns. I can’t wait to try his other recipes and report back here.
More information about Chef Cathal Armstrong, Restaurant Eve and his other restaurants is available at http://www.restauranteve.com.