Weekly Dinners Showcase Cuisine From Four D.C. Spots

Historically, the dining scene of Washington, D.C.'s West End has been closely associated with weekday power lunches and afternoon happy hour deals. It has served mostly as a pass-through, a place to grab a beer with a cubicle buddy before meeting your girlfriend for dinner in Georgetown or friends in DuPont for a ruckus night out. But there's more to this neighborhood than faux Irish pubs and George Washington University dives. Four restaurants in particular have recently put the West End on the map as a major gastronomic destination within the nation's capital.

Starting April 2, visitors and D.C. locals alike will get to indulge in the best the neighborhood has to offer by embarking on a culinary quest with stops at four iconic restaurants. Priced at $130 per person and capped at 12 guests per night, the West End Wednesdays "progressive dinner" will feature the Westend BistroBlue Duck TavernMarcel's and Ris.

At each restaurant, guests will enjoy a signature dish along with a wine or cocktail pairing chosen by the resident sommelier or mixologist. The idea is to offer a succession of courses prepared at each restaurant; when combined, the dishes make up a full meal that will satiate any level of hunger. As a way to mix things up for guests and challenge the kitchen, the menu will change each month, as will the order in which the restaurants are visited. In other words, while Marcel's might be the "appetizer stop" one week, it might be an "entrée stop" on the following week. Dishes will be presented and explained by a cook or chef at each stop, to help create an interactive experience.

West End Wednesdays was originally the brainchild of Ryme Lansari,  general manager of Westend Bistro as a way to showcase a neighborhood often overlooked as a dining destination. Westend Bistro partnered with Blue Duck Tavern, Marcel's and Ris and the restaurants have been working together for the past several months to refine and develop the experience.  

A recent press dinner, courtesy of the publicity team behind West End Wednesdays, offered a sneak peek of the progressive menu, which abounded with delicious and memorable specialties that reflected the style and culinary concept of each chef. Each menu also took dietary concerns into consideration, and vegetarian alternatives were just as impressive and substantial as their meaty counterparts.

The night started at Marcel's with a sparkling rosé Crémant de Bourgogne by Michel Sarrazin and a triage of hors d'oeuvres: tortellini stuffed with duck confit on a bed of black truffle purée, a stuffed morel with a velvet mousseline of foie gras and an egg shell filled with a luscious lobster custard, topped with crab and Osetra caviar. The ruby-red glass of Domaine Santa-Duc "Les Quatre Terres" Côtes du Rhône Village was wonderful, if a tad overindulgent for the appetizer stop.

Next up: Ris, where Chef Ris Lacoste herself presented her vibrant Portuguese Seafood Stew, a favorite dish from her childhood. The stew is a colorful amalgamation of buttery soft scallop, flaky cod filet, shrimp, octopus, clams, chickpeas and linguiça (sourced locally from Stachowski's Deli). Served on the side is crunchy bruschetta smeared with a house-made romesco. Wine Director Leah Cheston paired the stew with a slightly sweet Domaine Pichot Vouvray, a 100 percent Chenin Blanc whose peachy, floral sweetness expertly balances the smoky linguiça.

At the third stop, Westend Bistro welcomed guests with slices of roasted veal loin fanned out onto a plate with foie gras ravioli, chanterelle mushrooms, tender baby turnips and a crimson veal demi-glace. A round, tannic Villa Ponciago "La Reserve" Beaujolais provides the perfect boozy backbone to the supple meat and luxurious pâté-packed pasta.

And for dessert, nothing hits the spot more sweetly than Blue Duck Tavern's signature Apple Pie. This humble, all-American beauty is probably the most well-known and beloved item at a restaurant fancy enough for the president and first lady to celebrate an anniversary at. The flaky, buttery crust, sneaky drizzle of apricot glaze and homemade vanilla bean ice cream served in a gigantic pitcher on the side is a perfectly sweet comfort-food classic. The pie is paired with an Apple Bourbon Cocktail made with Buffalo Trace, Baron Calvados, apple cider and bitters. Cool and tangy, the cocktail finds the perfect partner in the warm apple pie and the two together made for a wonderfully cozy nightcap.

Reservations for West End Wednesday can be made in advance on their website. D.C. foodies who've wanted to experience the best of what the West End has to offer will now get to sample a taste of its four top spots. And judging from the website that shows all but one Wednesday as sold-out, it appears that it's already a hit.

Lili Kocsis is a self-proclaimed gastronome. She graduated from Harvard University in 2011 with a BA in linguistics. She dedicates her spare time to purposeful travel, food photography, and writing about regional cuisine under the penname MyAmusedBouche.