The Hot Plate:Breaking into the Minibar

Posted September 17, 2003 at 2:30pm

The six-seat minibar at Café Atlantico has been generating quite a buzz on the D.C. dining scene.

With off-the-wall dishes like cotton candy foie gras and mango ravioli with anchovy mousse, the experimental kitchen is turning heads and raising eyebrows.

Fans of José Andrés’ cooking at Jaleo, Café Atlantico and Zaytinya were eager to see what the innovative chef would bring D.C. diners next. The minibar is his latest brainchild.

At the minibar, located on the second story of Café Atlantico, adventurous eaters are treated to nearly 40 different bites on small plates, keeping the taste buds entertained for more than two hours.

The dishes challenge preconceived notions of what flavors go with what. Unlikely combinations such as caviar and vanilla are part of the menu’s intrigue.

Other dishes include conch fritters with

a liquid center, watermelon squares topped with cheese, tomato or balsamic vinegar, and single serving “injections” of soup.

Food presentation is as creative as the flavors. Take the cotton candy foie gras, for example. After a cotton candy machine creates a wisp of caramelized sugar, it is wrapped around foie gras and served on a stick, state-fair style.

The intimate setup gives diners a chance to interact with the chefs, who work behind the bar in front of the guests. Reservations are recommended — the bar already has some reservations through October. The experience costs $65, not including tax or tip. Café Atlantico is located at 405 Eighth Street NW. Singin’ the Blues. The Blues and Dreams celebration of the African-American experience in D.C. kicked off Monday, and numerous restaurants are offering special menu items reflecting the blue theme. Head to the Caucus Room for the Blues Dream filet mignon, a center-cut filet with blue cheese crumbled on top served with a dollop of blue cheese mashed potatoes.

The downtown Austin Grill gets into the spirit with the Blue Bay Margarita, served in a blue glass with a tart liqueur. Café Atlantico is also offering a specialty libation — a blueberry daiquiri made with sweet and sour blueberry puree and coconut and white rums. For dessert, head to Red Sage for a Cloud 9 — a baked puff of white chocolate meringue filled with lemon curd and fresh blueberries.

The Blues and Dreams celebration runs through Nov. 30.

Seeing Red. Continuing with the color theme, Red Sage has partnered with Andre Chreky salon to raise money for the American Red Cross of the National Capital Area.

The “Color Me Red Sage Red” promotion, which begins Oct. 1, offers two spa and dining packages for $120 and $290. The packages include either lunch or dinner at Red Sage, various spa treatments, including the custom Red Sage Red hair coloring, and a goody bag. More than 50 percent of the proceeds benefit the Red Cross.

Red Sage’s executive chef Michael Greenstein has crafted special menu items for the promotion, including venison with pomegranate sauce, roasted shallots and turnips, and steamed redfish with saffron, tomatoes, peppers, onion and couscous. For dessert, the restaurant will offer a cabernet wine cake with vanilla roasted figs and frozen macadamia-pistachio cream and a layered red velvet chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting.

Packages can be purchased at Red Sage, Andre Chreky and online at www.redcrossnca.org starting Oct. 1.

Food As Art. As part of the 11th Annual Arts on Foot Festival in Penn Quarter this Saturday, area restaurants will be selling samples and offering cooking demonstrations. The Capital Grille, the District Chophouse, Teaism and TenPenh are just a few of the participating restaurants.

For a complete list and more information, visit www.artsonfoot.org. The restaurants will be set up on F Street Northwest between Seventh and Eighth streets.