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Local restaurant group offers taste of Olympics

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Entertainment,Amy Seed

Fine dining restaurants in the Washington area are offering local diners a taste of the Olympics after the Feb. 12 launch of the 'Olympic Passport' promotion by the Neighborhood Restaurant Group.

Six participating restaurants chose to represent an Olympic nation, and are now offering cultural food and drink from their chosen country as special menu items.

The restaurants from the NRG that participated were Evening Star Cafe, ChurchKey, Columbia Firehouse, Rustico, Vermilion and EatBar. Evening Star Cafe and ChurchKey chose rivals U.S. and Canada while Columbia Firehouse, Rustico and Vermilion chose Russia, Germany and Italy. EatBar claimed Poland.

The NRG chose to use food as a way of connecting diners with the Olympics while adding healthy competition between restaurants. Special menu items include poutine, pierogi and schnitzel along with several variations of beer and wine.

Evening Star Cafe feature two special hamburgers, Will’s All-American Waffle Burger and the Five “B” Stinger, for the promotion as well as Philadelphia Pale Ale and Barnard Griffin Merlot, said Neel Lassetter, general manager.

According to Lassetter, the Evening Star Cafe created these dishes specifically for the Olympic Passport and have not yet decided if they will remain on the menu after the promotion.

Vermilion represent Team Italy and in turn highlighted Italian dishes. One of their special menu items is a four-cheese ravioli dish, and they also feature a special negroni cocktail.

“We chose Italy because Chef Chittum has a lot of Italian influences in his cooking,” said Lena Laskaris, assistant manager.

Passports can be obtained at any of the six locations and the goal is to collect stamps from each restaurant in order to receive a $50 gift card, redeemable at any NGR restaurant. Guests are not required to order one of the special menu items in order to get their passport stamped, said Kevin Tyldesley, director of operations for the NRG.

Each restaurant has a poster containing the medal count so guests can keep track, said Tyldesley. Although the exact number of completed passports is not known, he expects to see an increase this weekend.

“There’s been every day an increasing number of people,” he said.

Rustico chose Germany as their country. Because they are a huge beer destination, they made German beers available for guests, Tyldesley said. Also featured were house-made pretzels and mustards along with schnitzel.

Canada, represented by ChurchKey, has featured several Quebec breweries this month, Tyldesley said. As their special menu item, they served poutine, fries topped with cheese curd and sausage.

Bison short-rib stroganoff is the special dish from Columbia Firehouse, which chose to represent Russia, and EatBar highlighted pierogi along with two polish beers in support of Poland.

“We decided to do something a little off the beaten path because the other restaurants were taking the power houses,” said Matt Molaski, general manager of EatBar.

The promotion will conclude Feb. 28 with an oyster roast outside Evening Star Cafe. While all the restaurants have shown their Olympic support during the games, Evening Star Cafe plans to draw a crowd during the closing ceremony.

They will host a block party the day of the Olympic closing ceremony. It will be held Sunday from 12-6 p.m., and while it will be a free outdoor event, refreshments will be provided at a cost.

“We’ll be serving wines from all over the world, all American beers, barbequed oysters, hot dogs and more,” Lassetter said.

The main attraction of the party will be the men’s gold medal hockey final, said Tyldesley. A television will be tuned in to the game outdoors so guests can watch while socializing. Prior to the game, guests will have the opportunity to play winter sports on a Wii system.

Additional gift cards will be awarded during a raffle at the block party to people who turned in completed passports. First place will receive a $150 gift card while second and third place will receive gift cards for $100 and $75.

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