The Hot Plate: Day of the Dead

Posted October 29, 2003 at 3:37pm

While Americans are dressing up in costumes Friday for a mostly commercial holiday, Mexicans are preparing for a different kind of celebration.

It may sound somber, but El Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a festive celebration of death when deceased loved ones supposedly pay a visit to the living to eat, drink and be merry. The holiday, which is observed Nov. 1 and 2, is traditionally marked with lively celebrations at cemeteries and the preparation of special foods.

To honor the Mexican holiday, Andale Chef Alison Swope has prepared a special Day of the Dead menu that will be offered Nov. 3-7.

The menu includes roasted chiles stuffed with pork, corn tamales with shredded chicken, salmon a la veracruzana and pork tenderloin with green mole sauce. For dessert, a fresh apple tart with goat’s milk caramel will be served with vanilla ice cream.

Swope will also prepare traditional goodies such as pan de muertos — a sweet bread marked with skull and bone designs — and calaveras, sugar candies shaped like skulls.

Swope said she has always been intrigued by the holiday and Mexicans’ attitudes about death. “It’s a very celebratory thing,” she said. “It’s interesting to see the contrast in how cultures look at the holiday.”

Andale’s dining room will be dolled up for the festivities with hanging paper skeletons and marigold petals strewn on the floors. Two traditional alters have been constructed in the restaurant for the celebration as well.

Andale is located at 401 Seventh St. NW.

An Aria With a Side of Foie Gras. Enjoy an evening of opera, French wines and dinner at Brasserie Les Halles on Nov. 11 when TasteDC.com hosts its French Opera Night Wine Dinner from 7 to 10 p.m.

The four-course menu includes foie gras; a salad of arugula, apples, blue cheese and walnuts; hanger steak with french fries and shallot sauce; and chocolate almond cake for dessert. Wine pairings will be poured with each course, and opera singers will perform throughout the evening.

The $72 tickets include tax and tip. Visit www.tastedc.com to buy tickets.

Shaken or Stirred? In “Casino Royale,” Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, Bond orders an early version of his signature drink: “A dry martini … In a deep champagne goblet … Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel.”

America’s love affair with the martini began well before Bond ordered that drink in the 1953 novel, and on Nov. 13, a program at the International Spy Museum will shed some light on the cocktail’s history and enduring appeal.

Bartending guru Dale de Groff will be on hand to discuss the glamorous cocktail for “Shaken … Not Stirred: The History and Lure of the Martini.”

De Groff, aka the king of cocktails, is the author of “The Craft of the Cocktail.”

Caviar, hors d’oeuvres and, of course, martinis will be served at the event, which begins at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $50 and are available through Ticketmaster. To register, go to www.ticketmaster.com or www.spymuseum.org. Advance registration is required.

The Spy Museum is located at 800 F St. NW.

Dust Off the Bottle. If you’re lucky enough to have a nice bottle of wine aging to perfection in climate-controlled storage, Poste Moderne Brasserie is giving you the special occasion you may have been waiting for to pop the cork.

Poste’s second “Open That Bottle Night” will be held at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 19.

Wine aficionados gathered at the first event this spring to open special bottles and compare tasting notes. Guests at this fall’s event will have the opportunity to fill out a wine evaluation form, and the staff will compile and send the highlights to participants.

For the event, Chef Jay Comfort has created two three-course menus — one for red wines and one for whites.

For reservations, call (202) 783-6060. The three-course dinner costs $40, not including tax and tip. Poste is located at 555 Eighth St. NW, in the Hotel Monaco.