Local chefs dish out unique eats for restaurant week


The biannual celebration of taste buds is once again upon Alexandria and local restaurants are serving up a unique and multinational mix of foods for the occasion.
Quasi-foodies wanting new tastes on the cheap: look no further than Pizzeria Paradisos 12-inch Winter Pizza, featuring roasted duck, winter squash, carrots, celery, onion, ginger and aged Dutch gouda, for proof. 
The pizzerias beer manager, Greg Jasgur came up with the unique pie a year ago, when he was trying to find a companion for Allagash Brewing Companys Dubbel a dry, cold-weather brew laced with chocolate and nuts.  
[It is a] high alcohol beer with a sweetness that we really wanted to pair a nice strong flavor with, like the duck, Jasgur said. The way that the sugars work, its a really dry aftertaste. Thats where the squash and carrots come in.
Jasgur baked one up and gave it to Paradisos head chef for a taste, but something was missing. She added ginger and not long after the Winter Pizza began flying out of the restaurants oven and into the mouths of patrons, he said.
Weve been doing pizzas for a long time and when youve done it so long you have to find new and interesting ways to make it fresh and exciting, Jasgur said. We hadnt done duck in a while and we thought it was a perfect time for it. Duck is really common around Christmas time, so we thought it worked.
Not that the Winter Pizza is the sole unique dish set to hit plates during Restaurant Week. At Grape and Bean, David Gwaehmey is preparing to unveil his braised short ribs complete with a red wine demi glace. 
Its not an exotic dish, Gwaehmey admits, but he expects the high quality ingredients will make it a memorable meal.
We either build a recipe up or if were doing a play on a traditional dish we try to take it to another level, he said. It all adds up to an incredible dish. For me, its a dish that you may have had before or seen before but its going to be really well executed and super satisfying.
For the more international diner, La Tasca offers up Calamares A La Andaluza battered squid, deep-fried and served up with a healthy helping of garlic mayonnaise. Its a traditional Spanish meal with an American twist, said managing partner Shana McKillop.
In Iberia, calamari is usually sauted, which is still good, but customers prefer the deep-fried variation, she said.
We marinate it beforehand in herbs and a little bit of butter milk and we just have a light breading on that and toss it with a little bit of sea salt, she said. Its really fresh and crispy with a touch of salt, just really good seafood.
Unlike Jasgurs Winter Pizza and Gwaehmeys short ribs, the calamari is offered year round and remains popular among tapas fans, McKillop said. 
Across town at Fireflies, the staff is hoping to get tongues wagging with their Nova Scotia Chop salad. Mix romaine lettuce with a little homemade dill-crme fraiche vinaigrette and add Norwegian smoked salmon, capers, croutons and shaved red onions and thats a chop salad. 
It sounds heavy and it is, said Jill Williams, manager at Fireflies. Still, she recommends following the salad with a light pizza, either the margarita or the red, white and green pies. 
After a salad, a pizza goes very well, especially a thinner crust pizza, Williams said. Its not a real heavy entre to go after a nice portion of a salad.
According to organizers, 60 restaurants are participating in the latest rendition of Alexandrias restaurant week, offering $35 prix-fixe three-course dinners or $35 dinner for two deals from January 21 through January 30.