Ask Tom: Readers respond to my story on takeout packaging

Sep 23, 2020

Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema entertains your dining questions, rants and raves.

Find all of Tom Sietsema's Washington Post work at washingtonpost.com/tomsietsema.

Thanks for your article on all the trash generated from take-out. How can I encourage restaurants NOT to include plastic forks/spoons? I realize the food has to get here in some kind of container, but I do own silverware. Nobody ever asks, and there's no space on most online order forms to indicate this. Or maybe enough restaurants will read this? While they're at it, please also put the condiments in ONE plastic container instead of 3 or 4!

It's frustrating, right? Even when there's an option online to forgo utensils and condiments, I sometimes still get the unwanted extras with my takeout orders. I encourage people to let restaurants know when this happens; if no one complains, nothing changes. 

 

I heard from more than 100 readers from all over the world regarding that story on takeout containers (which required that I take some time away from this chat for reporting). 

 

FINE-DINING ALERT: The four-star Metier quietly reopened this month. The intimate restaurant below Kinship is currently open just two days a week (Friday and Saturday) although chef-owner Eric Ziebold says demand has been strong enough to support a Thursday service, too. The dining room has reduced its seating; no more than 20 customers at a time now. And the salon, where drinks and canapés are typically served before dinner, has become an optional add-on to encourage social distancing. For extra, diners can start with caviar and Champagne or conclude a meal with a digestif and sweets.


Highlights from the seven-course October menu include an oyster gratin with roasted tofu and yuzu kosho sorbet, salt-crusted baby chicken with smoked eggplant tapenade and a Concord grape vacherin. 


The team has been working on little take-home gifts, including house-made soap, says Ziebold. “Soap making isn’t quite our metier yet, but we’re quite enthusiastic about our results,” including lavender and tomato leaf scents, he emails. “We’ve also been working on vinegars from the garden as well as candles.”   


 

Good morning, everyone. It feels great to be back in the host seat, taking your questions and comments. I wrapped up the fall dining guide earlier this week. It appears online Oct. 7 and in print Oct. 11. Needless to say, this year's collection will be different from last year. 

 

How can I be of help today?

Hi Tom - where should we go for a celebratory dinner? The rub is that we are only comfortable dining outside and our anniversary is in late October. Do you know of any restaurants in DC with open air spaces that are also heated?

For now, I can only 1) suggest interesting outdoor venues (Fiola Mare on the Georgetown waterfront, the Dabney nestled in Blagden Alley, Annabelle in Dupont Circle, Clarity in the parking lot in Vienna, Flamant on a stone patio in Annapolis) and 2) hope the restaurants have or acquire heaters and the weather in late October is mild.

 

It wouldn't hurt to call and ask the above restaurants how they are dealing with the season. I didn't have time to do that (verify heat lamps) ahead of today's chat.

 

P.S. If you're a restaurant featuring heaters, let me know, please. I can compile a list here. Readers thank you in advance. 

Hi Tom, thanks for the chats! I always enjoy them even though I've moved away from the area. Submitting early in hopes that you can help my siblings and I find a higher-end restaurant in Baltimore that will prepare a great meal that is designed to be re-heated. Our parents are in complete lock down because of covid and do not want to directly eat food that was prepared by anyone else. We have previously had food delivered from a local independent grocery store (shout out to Eddie's!) but they have a milestone anniversary coming up next month and we're wondering if there is something else a little special. Thanks! p.s. I know covid-19 is not generally transmitted through food, but their comfort level determines what we'll do here.

Just before the pandemic, I reviewed -- and fell in love with -- the intimate Le Comptoir du Vin in Baltimore. The wine-themed bistro is just doing carryout now, but the wares include prepared foods. Picture Spanish tortilla with white anchovies, chicken liver pate, duck confit and desserts including coconut cream pie. Worth a call!

Hi Tom, really enjoyed your review on Rumi's Kitchen. I have 2 quick questions for you- 1. Based on their higher-than-average price, are entrees meant to be split among multiple diners? As a solo diner, I'm wondering if it might make more sense to try R's K as take out, rather than dealing with the hassle of leftovers from an in-person meal. 2. On a scale of 1 to terrifying, how do you rate your mannequin pandemic dining experiences?

1) What's truly filling at the new Persian restaurant is the mountain of rice served with the entrees. Entrees average $29, which is totally appropriate, given the quality. 

 

2) I *love* the mannequins! They're fun, and you kind of forget about them as dinner progresses and your focus is on the glorious food in front of you. 

I'm a big fan of yours and have read your columns and chats for years. I'm moving to Atlanta next year. Can you recommend a food critic that I could follow to learn the best that city has to offer?

I'm a big fan of Christiane Lauterbach, who writes for both Atlanta magazine and Knife & Fork. She's French, discerning and has one of the best palates in the business. 

Thanks to your article on Compass Rose, my partner and I celebrating our 7th anniversary on the 7th with 7 courses from 7 countries. The food was delicious and it made for a memorable celebration during a time when we have to be more creative. Thank you for pointing us in the right direction!

Ah, that's great to hear. Thanks to it's "world tour," Compass Rose,  one of three restaurants I looked at last Sundaygives diners a chance to travel without leaving Washington. Such a great idea, and a good value:  $80 for seven courses for two people (with leftovers).

In reference to the previous chat about lazy diners, sometimes I just ask the waiter to order for me. Because I think they know what is good more than anyone. Is that annoying for them? Or easier?

I think it depends on the waiter. Some will think "Seriously? I have no idea what this stranger likes." Others might see your request as a chance to steer you to something special. Personally, without knowing anything about a person taking my order, I prefer to make my own decisions. 

Even though (in our state) some of the fast food and quick service restaurants allow for indoor dining, I still prefer the drive-thru and I pay with credit card (to avoid having to deal with coins and bills). I try to always wear a mask while interacting with the person at the window while seated behind the wheel, but I'm wondering if the passengers in my car should also be wearing masks, especially those sitting on the driver's side with their window open - or across from me on the front seat passenger side with my window open. Note that I have almost always seen proper mask use by the server in the resyaurant window - though there were a few times back in the Spring where a mask might be below the nose but covering the mouth. Is it a courtesy or a 'probably should' for car passengers to be masked while being served at the drive-thru? Thanks!

I think it's both smart and thoughtful for passengers in a car with windows down to wear masks in a drive-through situation. Think of it as a "sidewalk" situation, where everyone is fairly close. 

live.washingtonpost.com is the easiest way to find them.

We are all gathered here now: https://www.washingtonpost.com/live-chats/

Hi Tom, I know you've been asked about using gift cards during the pandemic a few times. In the last chat you said, "that if you can hold on to the gift certificate for awhile yet, do so, and if you're strapped, use it." We've gone with a third option with some gift cards we purchased early in the pandemic at restaurants that are now open. We can hold off, but instead we use the gift card and spend more than we normally would - usually an expensive bottle of wine we wouldn't typically order. Then we over tip. So we end up spending about what we would have if we didn't use the gift card, but we get better wine and a happier server.

Such a great idea. Thank you for chiming in and for being so generous. 

Can you suggest a nice outdoor place for lunch for 6 in the McLean/Tyson's area?

A couple places come to mind. They include Aracosia in McLean for Afghan cooking on an attractive patio and Patsy's American in Vienna, where the menu features seafood towers, crab cakes, baby back ribs and more. 

I feel like more and more restaurants are resuming the use of plates, glasses and silverware, after months of paper and plastic for in-person dining (both outdoors and indoors). Have you noticed this (the use of grown-up utensils) in the past few weeks?

I have, and I applaud it. Not only do china and silverware enhance the dining experience, they save on the trash I wrote about last week. The goal is to REUSE stuff, not throw it away. 

Hi Tom! Any suggestions of where to get take out oysters? Is that even a thing? I've had bad experiences shucking my own and getting to a restaurant these days is tough/impossible for a long list of reasons. I'm really craving them!!

The very best place in town to slurp raw oysters is the venerable Old Ebbitt Grill. Alas, the restaurant, one of the busiest in the country, only offers cooked oysters (Rockefeller-style or fried) to go.


Those who are willing to eat indoors should know that the daily happy hour there is 3 p.m. to 5 .m., seven days a week and unlike before, happy hour oysters ($12 for six) can be eaten anywhere in the establishment, not just at the bar.


The Salt Line in the Navy Yard offers *unshucked* oysters for carryout, but also a video on its website explaining how to free bivalve from shell. 

Was labeled with what the dish is. This is difficult times for everyone but it seems like we spending a lot of time trying to figure out what is what and what goes with what. Labels would help a lot.

YES, PLEASE! I mean, most of us can distinguish between tacos and roast chicken, but it can be difficult when you've ordered multiple dishes and they come with multiple unmarked garnishes or sauces. 

but you may be my last best hope. A friend of the family used to make a casserole or slow-cooker spaghetti dish called "noodle goo." It tasted similar to Spaghetti-Os: a light creamy tomato sauce, a bit of cheese, pasta. No meat that I can remember. I loved it as a kid, and asked her for the recipe several times, but she's only say something like "it's ridiculous how easy it is" and would never give me the recipe. So I'm guessing cans of soup? I'll ask on the Ranger's chat, as well, but you seem to be more well-versed than them in midwestern casseroles -- any ideas?

I'll throw your question to this audience and see what comes back. Part of me thinks that the "noodle goo" you like is indeed a bunch of canned whatever warmed up on the stove top!

Welcome back Tom. One good thing coming out of the pandemic is that I've done lots of bicycling, seeing the city in a way I've never done since moving here in 1978. As I've biked, noticing all that's changed lately, it's also been gratifying to find restaurants that are still open and still in the same location as when I first became a Washingtonian. Here’s my list but I'm sure it's incomplete (and some of these might just feel older than they are). What am I missing? Ben’s Chili Bowl El Tamarindo La Chaumiere Hitching Post Prime Rib Clyde’s Georgetown Florida Ave. Grill 1789 Kramerbooks & Afterwords Trio Tune Inn Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse

While you've been noticing restaurants, I've been noticing birds from my occasional office in my backyard. The cardinals, bluejays and doves sometimes give the impression of a Disney movie. Except, my flock doesn't sing to me. Bummer!

 

I digress. I'd add to your good list Martin's Tavern in Georgetown, the Monocle on Capitol Hill, Mama Ayesha's near Adams Morgan and the Tabard Inn in Dupont Circle, one of the first restaurants I know that claimed its own farm way back in the day.  

My local Chinese restaurant has an option to add utensil packets to orders--they're still free, but this way, you have to actively order them if you want them. I think it's an awesome idea, and I hope more restaurants start doing it. Perhaps the staff taking phone orders could start asking whether people want utensils, just as a matter of course. I know being asked makes me think twice about whether I really need them. (That said, I don't want to make life harder for restaurant staff, so I can understand the benefit of just automatically including them.)

I like your Chinese restaurant's approach! I also think diners need to let businesses know -- remind/reinforce -- when they don't want any extras. 

Thanks for continuing these chats during the pandemic. They are a welcome relief from the tragic COVID-19 news. Komi is one of our favorite restaurants, and not just in DC. I've been checking, and haven't heard anything about when/if they will be reopening. We've enjoyed take-out from Little Serow. But I desperately miss creations from Chef Johnny such as gyros made from suckling pig and goat neck. Komi has a limited number of tables, so social distancing shouldn't be too difficult. Can you find out what the plans are for this wonderful restaurant? Thanks!

Fine-dining Komi has resurrected the plant-based, diner-style pop up it hosted before the pandemic. Happy Gyro is doing some delicious and creative food, including a "reuben" that swaps in shaved celery root for corned beef and "green toast," which finds a lawn of dark greens and juicy little tomatoes atop house-made sourdough toast.  (The pop up is doing ace pizza, too, although my favorite pie is meaty with salami.)

I wanted to give a shout-out to Little Serow for delicious and varied gluten-free carry-out & great customer service. I have celiac disease, so I need to be strict. I sent a question thru the website & got a friendly note back from Anne Marler, helping me navigate the menu AND confirming that kitchen practices (not just ingredients) are consistent w/gluten-free eating. It was a pleasure to have so many delicious choices.

Take a bow, Little Serow. 

I seem to recall that you posted once about preferring to leave cash tips when dining out. Are you able to do this during COVID? I like to do this too so the servers aren't hit by CC fees, but I'm having a hard time getting large bills broken into smaller denominations to do this and I'm not using cash otherwise these days. Just wondering what others' experiences are with this. (On the rare occasions I am dining in-person vs. take-out, I tip extra so the CC fees don't bite into what the servers take home b/c I don't have the smaller cash on-hand anymore.)

I can totally identify. I drove past a bank the other day and realized it's been *months* since I last used an ATM.

 

Has anyone in this forum ever Venmoed a server a tip? Just curious. In before times, say, at a sushi counter, I've left a tip for the artist behind the bar in a white envelope. That's one way to get around handing someone cash directly. 

I take my own plastic container to the restaurant and ask that my takeout be placed in that. No one has ever refused

Tell us which restaurants do this! I love the idea, but I can imagine some logistical/safety issues. 

They're doing curbside pickup from 4:00 pm until 9:00 pm Wednesday through Sunday. The food is as wonderful as ever. You had praised the sisig - and I finally got up the nerve to try it. It is eat-every-drop-and-lick-the-plate delicious. I expect that they had to drop their expansion plans, and I hope they can survive the quarantine. Thanks for recommending them!

An update from owner Javier Fernandez: "We still plan to expand with a Filipino rotisserie chicken concept," he texts me. "COVID has put a little delay on our plans. However, we hope to start scoping out locations again soon. Contracts with landlords seem to be more flexible with the pandemic and the uncertainty of when things will be back to normal. This gives us some options but we still need to make a decision on when and how is best to proceed."

Hi Tom - Thanks for all your continued help, even during the worst of times! My wife and I are taking a day off on Monday to go to the country (either in Virginia or Maryland) for some fresh air - a hike and outdoor lunch. We'd like to stay within an hour of NW DC. I'd like to plan the outing around lunch (obviously). Any suggestions for restaurants in the "country" doing outdoor lunch (bonus points for a nice setting). No restrictions otherwise. Thanks!

Mondays are tough,  but I found something for you: Field & Main in Marshall, Va. The farm-to-table lunch list features such draws as "pigstrami" (pork) sandwich, beet poke bowl and shrimp and grits.  The restaurant is near Middleburg and Warrenton, FYI. 

I am that server who hates it when people don't read the menu and ask, "What's good here?" I personally do not mind at all if patrons ask me to order for them. I don't care at all if the patron doesn't like what I select, and they are almost guaranteed to like it. People who make that request are usually easy-going, and I generally choose crowd pleasers. Once a guy asked, "Give me a drink, something clear." I have him a gin and tonic. He complained, and wanted a vodka red bull. He made a big fuss about it. What a jerk. Some chatters don't like me, but I would love to hear someone defend this behavior.

If someone says "bring me whatever" and a server follows through, the diner really has no right to complain about what's placed in front of him. Geesh.

So much this - I noticed a trend for people to use disposable for their buffet parties at home. Please make it stop!!!

I call that laziness. #hatepaperplates #learntoentertain

We love going out and feel comfortable dining outdoors right now. I want to encourage everyone to bring lap blankets to extend outdoor dining as long as we can. And since i'm already on this soap box may i make a plea for people to bring their own containers for leftovers, and ask restaurants to minimize packaging (no styrofoam, plasticware, extra sauce containers, etc).

Personal blankets are such a great idea; it saves restaurants from having to wash them after each use. And three cheers to patrons who let restaurants know they don't want any extra utensils and condiments -- and then to the businesses that actually listen and follow through. 

I liked your article about all of the trash we collect from takeout. I always click no utensils but almost always still get them. As of now they're collecting in a drawer but that drawer is getting very full. Is there anything else I can do with them besides throw them out? They're all wrapped individually.

Good question. I, too, have several drawers full of wrapped utensils. Maybe today's audience will offer solutions. 

Hello, I am wondering if you have a recommendation for a restaurant in DC that has a brunch like menu (late breakfast, early lunch menu of any kind) on a weekday and also has outdoor seating? I have two dear friends coming for a short visit to DC and we can only meet up during the week. We are an 'older' age group so definitely want some place that provides good social distancing, thus prefer outdoors, and possibly takes reservations. Thank you. PR

I think I have the perfect roost for you: Piccolina, an offshoot of the beloved Centrolina in CityCenter. The cafe's all-day menu includes house-made granola, charred chicken salad, pizza and dishes cooked in a wood oven. The outside seating is limited, so I'd advise earlier rather than later. 

 

HEATER ALERTJust a heads up that we have wall mounted electric heaters at Espita and we're awaiting 5 standing propane heaters which I expect to arrive in about 2 weeks.

Cheers,

Josh Phillips
Partner, GM & Mezcalier

I turn 50 in late October, and this was the year I was finally going to go to minibar. Unfortunately I asked them about reopening and got "Currently, we are holding off on setting a date to reopen." Can you recommend something similar in DC or Northern Virginia (Inn at Little Washington too far with a babysitter at home)?

I haven't been there since early this summer, but the innovative Seven Reasons on 14th St. sounds like a logical alternative to an evening at minibar by Jose Andres.  For something more traditional, but still exciting, the aforementioned Metier near the convention center is a delicious option. 

I never just ask, "what's good here," but if I have trouble narrowing my choices down, I'll say, "I'm thinking of entrees X, Y, and Z -- which would you choose?" Or something to that effect. Even if the server is diplomatic, it's pretty easy to figure out which dish to order.

The more detail you can give servers about your likes and dislikes, the better they can address your question. 

Hi Tom! While I currently work in an unrelated career, I am passionate about becoming a food writer. Do you have any tips or suggestions for breaking into the field?

It's a crowded field, but the more the merrier as far as I'm concerned.

 

Take advantage of the pandemic and read the great food writers: MFK Fisher, AJ Liebling, Jonathan Gold, Ruth Reichl and others. And write, write, write, even if it's just for friends and family. Because in order to get published, you need to show potential employers you have a way with words, a voice -- hopefully both. Find an editor to go over your work and give you feedback. 

 

You don't say what aspect of food writing interests you most, but if it's cooking, is there some part of  cooking at which you excel? It helps to be an expert in a subject, because then you become the go to authority on barbecue, Polish food, ancient dining etiquette or whatever. 

 

I used to say travel -- eating food at its source -- was important. It still is, but the crisis has made that almost impossible at the moment. 

 

Good luck to you. 

Tom, I'd walked many times by the hole-in-the-wall vegetarian Indian spot Vegz, but your recent advice to a vegetarian chatter to try it prompted my SO and I to place an order. Everything was excellent, and held up well as takeout. Standouts were the spinach dosa (crispy and comforting) and paneer vindaloo (fiery and flavor-packed curry accented with mild cubes of cheese). Thanks for the rec!

Thanks for the feedback. I'm so glad the Indian eatery made a good impression. I tried Vegz (2120 18th St. NW) again over the weekend and found the food to be as interesting as before.

 

My current fascinations are the gobi dosa, stuffed with cauliflower tossed in a chile-garlic sauce; the sunny yellow broccoli and grated coconut; and the black lentils braised in garlic. 

Humorous story on this from my past. One time I had to buy one of every frozen Chinese entrée in the local Giant for a work project (won't go into details on the project). All we really needed were the boxes. So I took the food out of the boxes and tossed the food into the freezer in the work kitchen. Emailed the office it was free for the taking. Within 10 minutes started getting complaints that they all looked identical: some kind of meat, some kind of veggies, some kind of brown sauce. Lesson learned: Keep the box handy to ID frozen Chinese food!

LOL

Still use the ATM and I pay cash at fast food places and have been since March. I pay cash for delivery pizza and Chinese dears. Gawd some of you all are really paranoid. OH and BTW I am one of the top Sports Medicine/knee surgeons in the country. Surgical mask are worthless unless you are in an emergency room or operating room.

Hey, you're the expert, but tell us why surgical masks are "useless," please? I mean, if they're used in operating rooms, they must offer *some* protection, right?

Hi Tom - As always, we love your reviews and recommendations. I am always the one jumping on OpenTable as soon as I read your column. We would love to know your favorite date night spot in Old Town Alexandria, and more particularly, what you would order. We love all types of food, atmospheres, and are good with any price range, but like to dress for date night (not ridiculously - we are in our 50's) and make it special. Please enlighten me. Thanks and cheers!

Oak Steakhouse to the rescue. The L-shaped set-up outside the restaurant is safe and attractive and besides the obvious protein (go for the juicy ribeye with the house sauce), you'll find well-made drinks; a good crab cake; beautiful sliced tomatoes in a rainbow of colors, scattered with herbs and centered with creamy burrata; and snowy halibut lapped with black olive sauce. 

For the chatter that wanted raw oysters to-go, we had a half dozen delivered from King Street Oyster Bar in Noma, and they were very good.

Good to know. Thanks for chiming in. 

Hi Tom, any insights as to what happens as we clearly are getting to fall (and, eventually winter) and temps dropping. I read about some area restaurants that are closing for the winter (which I assume means, very likely, forever) and how to manage this transition. Things have been "easier" with the summer weather, but we know it won't last forever. This is by no means an issue just in the DC area. Other states, with really cold winters, are going to feel this very real issue. Any thoughts?

Let me preface this by saying I'm from Minnesota and I love cold weather. Embrace it, even. With the help of some heaters and open-sided tents, I'm looking forward to continuing to dine outside -- and I hope a lot of other restaurant goers are as well. Let's look at this as an opportunity rather than an obstacle!  

 

Hi Tom; former line cook here, and as much as I hate seeing local restaurants close during this pandemic, here's why I still don't feel comfortable dining out. Every chef I ever saw working in a kitchen sampled their food as they cooked, usually with a common spoon, fork or their fingers. It was universal, and I don't honestly believe ingrained kitchen habits like this can be abandoned by most people. Even though the food is cooked and the temperatures should help minimize risk, it's still something I don't want to risk, so I cook at home. Just commenting in the hope that maybe you can convince me otherwise.

Thanks for weighing in. I always appreciate feedback from the industry. 

 

You're right about ingrained habits being hard to break. Until March, I was a hand-shaking, shoulder-squeezing, back-patting kind of guy. No more. I keep my distance from fellow diners, try not to laugh or talk between bites of food without a mask on and refrain from touching most public surfaces. 

 

What I'm saying is, eight months into the pandemic, a lot of people have adjusted to the new normal, which, in the case of your former industry, definitely excludes fingers in sauces, double-dipping, etc. 

 

I've said this before and the CDC backs me up, but it bears repeating: air transmits the virus from one person to another. Food does not. 

I make my own version - pasta rings cooked a little under. Then a can of tomato sauce, a little pepper, a lot of sugar (taste as you go, a teaspoon at a time) and some grated parmesan. Cook the pasta, mix with the sauce, cook a little longer. Add frozen cooked meatballs to the sauce and there ya go. The sugar is the key.

Bon Appétit! (Or not.)

Is there no food chat today?

You're posting. Therefore, a chat exists. 

Going to celebrate my big birthday in a limousine with a tour of dc at night. Was thinking might be fun to pick up food somewhere that would be conducive to eating in the limo...any ideas? If not dinner type food, then dessert would be fun.

"Food conducive to eating in a limo," eh? I think it depends on how careful a driver you have, and whether speed bumps are involved.

 

If it were me in the back seat there, I'd probably ask to be ferried to Baan Siam for some pineapple bites,  Reveler's Hour for some fried chicken or Rumi's Kitchen for the flatbread and sabzi. 

Any suggestions for a higher-end at-home dining experience (a la Roses at Home)? Looking for something for our 3rd wedding anniversary, coming up in a few weeks. Cuisine style not terribly important. Thank you!

I keep sending readers to Rooster & Owl for special occasions and get nothing but raves about the takeout from chef Yuan Tang and company. 

I am a senior in Silver Spring. I really want to know where I can go - even in DC - where I can purchase a really good Chinese take out meal.

One of my last meals before the pandemic sent everyone home was at Q by Peter Chang in Bethesda. The food back in March -- pearly shrimp dumplings, glossy pea shoots fragrant with garlic, folds of pork tossed with green pepper and packed with chile heat -- was as good as I've ever enjoyed there. 

Hi Tom - You helped to connect me to The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm for a recent milestone birthday dinner. I wanted to thank the whole team there. The setting and hospitality were lovely, and the food (Peruvian that night) was delicious. And we felt very safe throughout. It was a wonderful night and well worth the drive. Many thanks as always for your assistance!

You are very welcome. And what good timing you had.  Tarver King, the chef from Patowmack Farm, recently announced plans to leave the restaurant and open a place of his own, closer to Washington. 

Thank you for addressing the mountains of trash associated with takeout. I want to support restaurants, but the poor choices in containers was an issue for me even before the pandemic. I reuse and recycle plastic containers, but whenever I get styrofoam, I think twice about revisiting a place. Things are often at least double bagged for no obvious reason, and why are they giving us plastic forks?we're at home! If businesses would simply make forks, etc. by request only, that would save tons from the landfill. I hope you will continue to follow this issue.

I think it's important for restaurants to know a lot of us care about how their food gets to us. I'm cheered by chefs like Rob Rubba, who sourced sugarcane containers (made in the U.S,) for his new plant-based restaurant, Oyster Oyster

Headed to Chez Billy Sud for a special dinner. Any thoughts?

I highly recommend the duck confit at one of the city's most charming date spots

I wrote in a few weeks ago looking for a special place to have dinner outside following my much-smaller-than-planned wedding. I'm happy to report that I am now married (YAY!) and we had a lovely dinner this weekend at Del Mar. The food was spectacular and the service was as fantastic--in short, just the experience you'd expect from Fabio Trabocchi. (They didn't plate the paella for us, which I appreciated as a smart safety move in these times, and they welcomed us with complimentary champagne. Also, I'm pretty sure they let us stay well beyond our allotted hour and a half, which was very gracious of them.) It was a perfect way to end our wedding day. P.S. - for chatters looking to dine outside as it gets colder, I was told that Del Mar does have patio heaters. It also looked like they were giving blankets to patrons who requested them.

Cool, cool, cool. And congrats. In the age of Covid, I'm thinking we should all be bringing our own blankets to restaurants when it's cold out. 

Hi Tom! The concoction the poster describes sounds very much like Franco-American canned spaghetti, so you might be right about the family friend pulling a fast one! My brother loved it when we were children and so it was on the table perhaps more frequently than I would have liked.

That stuff is so soft, it's almost liquid! LOL

I collect mine and donate to my parents' church. They'll either put them in their food pantry or use them at their homeless shelter. They offer the takeout utensil sets to everyone who comes through for food. Not everyone will take them but the ones who do were always appreciative.

Suggestions from other readers:

Donating plastic utensils

There are a number of non-profits that will take them. For example, the Wendt Center in DC and Northern Virginia Family Service.

Extra utensil packs

Consider making up kits to give to homeless people. I hand out gallon-size zip-top bags with a couple pairs of socks, granola bars, small bars of soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste, etc. Adding a utensil pack might open up their meal options. Or maybe a shelter or soup kitchen could use them?

Please advise which Ethiopian restaurants in Silver Spring area or DC, close to Silver Spring/Bethesda would you recommend for take out/delivery.

In Silver Spring, I've had very good takeout from both Bete and Rohobot, which does a great vegetable combination platter. 

 

That's a wrap for today, folks. Thanks for the good questions. Let's meet again, same time, next Wednesday. My chats are always posted on my author page, by the way, and I encourage early submissions. Be safe out there!

In This Chat
Tom Sietsema
Tom Sietsema has been the Washington Post food critic since 2000. In leaner years, he worked for the Microsoft Corporation, where he launched sidewalk.com; the Seattle Post-Intelligencer; the San Francisco Chronicle; and the Milwaukee Journal. A graduate of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, he has also written for Food & Wine, Gourmet, GQ, Travel & Leisure and other national publications. In 2016, he received an award from the James Beard Foundation for his series identifying and rating the "10 Best Food Cities in America" the previous year.
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