November-December 2014 | Food & Drink

Table Talk: Balducci's Pumpkin Martini, Slender Seven, La Jolie's Macarons

Plus restaurant comings and goings

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Pour on the Pumpkin

Why wait until the end of the Thanksgiving feast to enjoy the flavor of pumpkin? Try kicking off the holiday this year with a cocktail from Balducci’s Executive Chef Jason Miller.

Balducci’s Pumpkin Martini (Makes 1 drink)

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 shot vodka
  • 1 tablespoon half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon canned pure pumpkin purée
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract (optional)

Combine the sugar and half of the pumpkin pie spice on a small plate. Dip the rim of a chilled martini glass in water, then dip in the sugar to coat. In a martini shaker filled with ice, combine the vodka, half-and-half, pumpkin purée, maple syrup, peppermint extract (if using) and the remaining pumpkin pie spice. Shake vigorously, then strain into the prepared glass.

The Skinny on Slender Seven

The number seven may have a reputation for being lucky, but for Nikki Azzara, it’s the perfect number of ingredients for making simple, healthy dishes. “Ten is too many, five is too little,” she writes on her website,

Azzara, 22, a North Potomac resident who graduated from St. Andrew’s Episcopal School and Wake Forest University, launched the gluten-free recipe website in 2013, after taking a college class in entrepreneurship. With an appealingly spare layout, the website contains more than 300 original, accessible recipes for main dishes such as Sweet Potato Tacos and Apple-Thyme Turkey Burgers, as well as breakfast and side dishes, smoothies, snacks, dips and dressings.

Azzara hopes to combine her interests in marketing and food and turn Slender Seven into a product line, and ultimately, a store. She’s already released a recipe app for the website, and at press time, was finalizing the rollout of her first product—a cookie dough made from chickpeas that’s all-natural and free of gluten, sugar, dairy, peanuts and flour. It’s edible raw or cooked.; Twitter: @slenderseven

Food Find

How does a Venezuelan lawyer end up making French macarons for a living? It all started after Ruth Rivas moved to Bethesda in 1997, and decided to follow her passion for cooking instead of taking the bar exam, which would have allowed her to practice law here. After graduating from L’Academie de Cuisine in 1999, Rivas worked at Teaism in Dupont Circle, then catered on weekends and took a day job as a social worker until October 2013. That’s when she and her sister Renée, who lives in Derwood, followed through on a longtime dream to start a company together. Renée, who has a sales and marketing background, knew they should focus on one product—and so they decided to produce the macarons that Ruth had fallen in love with during a 2010 trip to Paris. The only problem: Ruth had never made the meringue sandwich cookies.

It took Ruth six months of trial and error to come up with a successful cookie that was crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, and didn’t explode in the oven, or deflate after removal.

The result, La Jolie Macarons, are delicate, not too sweet, and filled with generous, vibrant-tasting fillings.

The dulce de leche, chocolate, lemon, pistachio and strawberry flavors are available in five-pack boxes at Dawson’s Market in Rockville for $8.99; extra-large cookies are sold at West Wing Café & Bakery in Rockville for $2.50 apiece, or three for $6. This holiday season, the Rivas sisters are also offering special-order green and red macarons in peppermint and mint chocolate flavors; a minimum order of two dozen costs $44. Call 301-769-6844.

Comings & Goings

Longtime restaurateurs Damian and Stephanie Salvatore, who own Persimmon in Bethesda and Wild Tomato in Cabin John, are branching out with a third restaurant, an Asian-American place called Indigo House. Slated to open this fall, the restaurant’s menu will include hibachi-grilled meats and seafood, plus sushi. It’ll replace My Sushi in the shopping center at 7945 MacArthur Blvd.—three doors away from Wild Tomato.

Rockville Town Square has had several “goings” in the past few months, with the closures of Oro Pomodoro, Cosi, Pho & Rolls and Carbon Peruvian Chicken. But Federal Realty might revive the town square with its leasing of the former Taste of Saigon space to the elusive, award-winning Chinese chef Peter Chang. This will be the sixth restaurant for Chang, and his first in Maryland. Chang, who once served as chef at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., has a penchant for disappearing after brief but successful cooking stints at his restaurants. At the Rockville locale, slated to open in early 2015, look for specialties such as Peter Chang’s Duck in Stone Pot and Grandma’s Steamed Pork Belly. Hopefully, Chang will stick around this time.  

In other Rockville news, Stanford Grill, owned by the folks that run the chain Copper Canyon Grill, will be opening a gargantuan eatery at 2000 Tower Oaks Blvd. sometime in 2015. The 8,000-square-foot American restaurant, with an open fire pit, outdoor patio, nightly entertainment, valet parking and seating for 400, will specialize in wood-fired meats, seafood and barbecued ribs.

Shopping and eating—two of America’s favorite pastimes—will be easier this holiday season, thanks to seven new restaurants due to open at Westfield Montgomery mall. As part of a $90 million mall expansion that took 18 months, the renovated dining terrace will feature four new fast-casuals (Blaze, Lobster ME, Cava Mezze Grill and Chipotle) and three full-service restaurants (Crave, MET Bethesda and Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria).

In August, chef Michael Harr left Food Wine & Co., after his progressive cooking helped the Bethesda restaurant gain metro-wide recognition. Harr had been at the restaurant since 2011, and followed a long line of short-lived chefs since the eatery opened in 2010. He also had been instrumental in the menu development at Fish Taco and City Burger, sister restaurants from Food Wine & Co. owners Francis Namin and Carlos Ramirez. Sam Henderson, a chef with experience in large-scale operations, was slated to replace Harr.

Carole Sugarman is the magazine’s food editor. Send ideas to