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Hankerings By Jamie Leeds

Hankerings by Jamie Leeds

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When I think of the seasons, my first thoughts aren’t of leaves changing color or of a frost in the air, but of smells and tastes.  As a chef, when I think of Autumn I think of the hearty aroma of herbs like rosemary and sage… oh, it makes me so happy!  As I’ve been putting together the Fall menu for Hank’s Pasta Bar, I’ve been busy toasting pumpkin seeds for our Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad… and fennel seeds to go into our fennel sausage for the creamy Malfalde.

With a slight chill in the air, it’s the perfect time of the year for slow cooking, and I can hardly wait for you to try my Braised Pork Shank with Pearl Pasta and Parmesan Jus!  Or my Grilled Veal Chop with Caramelized Cipollini Onions.  And fish… let’s talk about fish.  I’ve prepared my warm Seafood Stew filled with Shrimp, Scallops, Fish, Mussels all swimming in a Saffron-Orange Broth. I can’t finish without telling you all about our pasta! We’re bringing back our extremely popular Butternut Squash Ravioli, Pappardelle Al Ragu, Fettuccine Bolognese and my favorite, Paccheri Cacciatore.

You can see, we have a lot for you to try and I’d love to invite you to come taste the way I see Fall.

Take A Seat On My Summer Road Trip

August 3, 2016
by Jamie Leeds

Summer has always been my favorite season and with just a few weeks left of summer, I thought I’d share what summer means to me- travel. This year I chose to get on the road and eat my way up and down the East Coast. I had the opportunity to try some really delicious food and in fact, I usually plan most of my adventures around the restaurants I’m going to visit. As a restaurant owner myself, not only do I love trying new restaurants, but I love gaining inspiration from new places and tastes.  Many times this inspiration carries over to my own restaurants too. And as I try new food, I also pay attention to the design of the space and all of the details that turn eating into a special moment. Having a seat at a restaurant in a new city is almost like looking into a window of that town. Whether it’s the elegant ambiance at Star Boggs in Westhampton, the first of the season Blueberry Ice Cream at Arethusa Farm in Connecticut, the relaxed and unique backyard food truck at North Fork Table & Inn or the hustle and bustle of Pasquale Jones pizza shop in New York City… little bits of each neighborhood and its culture pop up all over these restaurants.  For me, the best way to get to know a place is through the food that the locals are proud of and the food that they enjoy. As I sign off today, I’m on my way to get more acquainted with the beach town vibe at Henlepon Oyster House (my 2nd favorite oyster bar). And who knows, I may even bring some of that summertime atmosphere to Hank’s On The Wharf when I get back to DC!

An Open Letter To My Staff

As I reflected on and mourned the recent tragedy in Orlando, I thought about how there needs to be more love, gratitude and positive energy in the world. In my own personal life, those things have come from not only family and friends, but also from my staff.  So, for this month’s Hankerings, I’d like to share….

An Open Letter To My Staff,

I want to start by simply saying thank you. You are the ones who have helped turn a dream of running a small mom-and-pop shop into the reality of owning multiple successful restaurant concepts. Every server, line cook, host, chef de cuisine, bartender, dishwasher, barback and manager who has stepped through the doors of Hank’s Oyster Bar, The Twisted Horn and Hank’s Pasta Bar… You are the ones who have made our restaurants a national destination and I would not have been able to do it without each and every one of you. You saw the potential for success. You held yourselves and us to the highest standards. I know how demanding this industry can be (I’ve been in your shoes!) and I’m grateful for your tireless efforts, ambition and endless dedication to this group. You are the reason people keep coming back to our restaurants to dine and the reason they stay at our bars all night. You are my driving force and I love what I do because of you. Thank you for being an integral part of this passionate little family we call JL Restaurant Group.

Sincerely,

Jamie Leeds

The Recipe For A Perfect Wedding

Hankerings by Jamie Leeds

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This month marked one of the happiest days of my life… my wedding day. And what made it even more special was that I got to celebrate the ceremony and reception at Hank’s Pasta Bar, surrounded by the people who I love the most. It was the first event to take place on the 2nd floor of Hank’s Pasta Bar and I felt so much excitement being able to christen the space with joy and happiness alongside my (now) wife and our closest friends and family. As the wedding filled up with familiar faces, I couldn’t help but think about all of the cheerful couples and future faces who will continue to fill the restaurant with the same joy and happiness. And as I look back on that memory, I start to reminisce about the ingredients that went into creating it (after all, I am a chef!) So, with that, I’d like to share with everyone, “Jamie & Tina’s Recipe For A Perfect Wedding”:

* Combine two Hearts with a sprinkle of Romance

* Add Friends and Family (add extra to taste)

* Fold in Laughter, Fun, Music and Dancing

* Scatter a handful of Favorite Foods

* Pour in a splash of Vodka

* Drop in a dash of Chocolate

* Gently mix ingredients together

* Serve in a beautiful room full of Joy

Being Nominated for Restaurateur of the Year

by Jamie Leeds
May 3rd, 2016

I’m thrilled to have been nominated for the Restaurateur of the Year Award by RAMW this year. It was so great hearing my name called at the RAMMY Nomination Party and standing up on that stage next to fellow restaurateurs from across the city. When I saw everyone cheering as the restaurant names were read out loud, I was lucky enough to look back at a group of people who have contributed to JL Restaurant Group. As exciting as this nomination is, it’s just as much about my team as it is about me. Having a team of creative and hardworking people has truly been the reason for our success over the years. And I couldn’t be happier that our friends, neighbors and guests love our restaurants as much as we do.  All of this positive recognition means that people are enjoying our restaurants, which is the most exciting part of this nomination. As JL Restaurant Group grows, I can’t wait to continue bringing people together over delicious food and drink… because in the end that’s really what it’s all about!

Cherry Blossoms & Fresh Faces

by Jamie Leeds
April 1, 2016

I always look forward to cherry blossom season and all that it brings to DC each year- Fresh flowers, fresh produce and of course, fresh faces. Tourist season is a wonderful time for the restaurant industry. At Hank’s Oyster Bar, it gives us the opportunity to meet people of all walks of life from around the world and more importantly, we get to welcome them to our neighborhoods. Even if it’s just for a few hours or one day.

And speaking of springtime in the neighborhood, the outdoor Farmers Markets are finally starting to pop back up again. Those of you who know me well, know that I love visiting the different neighborhood Farmers Markets early in the morning to pick up fresh ingredients for breakfast and lunch. One of my favorite ways to spend a Sunday morning is to pick up whatever produce catches my eye at the market and throw it all together into a delicious breakfast dish. In fact, here’s a recipe for a frittata I recently made after a visit to the Dupont Circle Farmers Market. It was a hit!

* 12 Large Eggs

* 1 Cup Cold Baked Purple Potatoes, Diced

* 8 Mushrooms, Sliced

* 4 Cups Baby Spinach Leaves

* Fresh Dill

Start by whisking the eggs and set aside. Sautee your fresh vegetables in a skillet then add the egg mixture. Stir everything in the pan for 30 seconds then finish in the oven at 450 degrees until set. Flip the frittata onto a serving plate, sprinkle with dill and enjoy. (By the way, this recipe also makes a great party appetizer when cut up into squares served with toothpicks… and it’s just as tasty when it’s room temp).

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Spring Changes

The weather is starting to warm up and Spring is right around the corner, which has gotten me thinking about the changes and growth that are happening in my own life too. It’s been quite the year, growing what started as a humble seafood restaurant into a group of amazing neighborhood restaurants with multiple different concepts. And I must admit, I’m still not used to the word “restaurateur.” I think it’s because it feels more like I’m growing and developing creative ideas, rather than building restaurants. It’s a lot like watching a garden come to life. I planted the seeds for Hank’s Oyster Bar almost 11 years ago and I’m lucky to have watched that concept spread throughout the DC area. Each of the three locations are being cared for and watered, just like a crop that’s tended to every year.

While The Twisted Horn is just starting to blossom, I’m so proud to watch Megan and Burke shine behind the bar. Their attention to detail and creative minds are exactly why they were the right people for the job. I’m particularly excited about a new seasonal drink on their menu that mixes tequila and gin and even has pear and wasabi in it… Who knew that combination would be so delicious? But leave it to Megan and Burke to take a winter fruit and completely flip it upside down with spring flavors. I can’t wait for the bar to really hit its groove as the weather gets nicer.

And even though Hank’s Pasta Bar has only just started to form, the response from everyone couldn’t have been more positive. The Pasta Bar, like all of the other restaurants, started with a big idea and a whole lot of passion and seeing the team (Nick, Daniel and Jess) care for it just as passionately has been one of the most rewarding parts of the opening. The hard work everyone has put in is truly paying off with the amount of happy faces that leave the restaurant each night. Now that all of the new places are up and running, I get to do the fun part- watch them blossom and find their distinct personalities… that is, until it’s time to start planting the seeds for Hank’s Oyster Bar On The Wharf!

It’s The Season of Love

by Jamie Leeds

February is the month of love and love is definitely in the air around here! In my life love has taken on lots of different forms and never has that been more apparent than lately. When I think of love, I think of family and friends and friends who feel like family. I think about the love I have for my son, Hayden, and about the things we both love like travel and spending quality time together. On our most recent trip to go skiing, I was reminded of the risks we take for the ones we love too. It was my first time on the slopes and I ended up breaking my wrist at the end of the day! But we still had a great time together and it was worth it to share such a fun experience with my son.

Speaking of traveling, there’s a big trip coming up at the end of February. Myself and a bunch of staff members- Shane Mayson, Tara Bunch and Jeff Strine, just to name a few- will be heading to the Bahamas to celebrate Hank’s Dupont’s Chef de Cuisine, Theary So’s wedding. I feel lucky to have a staff who I enjoy laughing and spending time with outside of work. And the best part? We even rented a villa in the Bahamas that we’re all going to stay in together.

And of course when I think of love and joy I think of my fiancée, Tina, and our upcoming wedding in May. These are the weeks where we’ll be in the final planning stages and we’ve been loving every moment of it. We’re so excited to gather our loved ones together, with people joining us from near and far. It’s going to be a really special evening- my food & beverage buddies Scott Drewno and Kaz Ochoki are providing some of our favorite foods and my friend Mark Michael of Occasions will be catering the wedding. Plus, Maggie O’Neill and the team at SwatchRoom are going to help us create the perfect space for the party (they did an amazing job with Hank’s Pasta Bar and we can’t wait to see what they do for the wedding).

Needless to say, there’s a lot of love in my life and I couldn’t be more grateful. So, as we gear up for Valentine’s Day, I invite you all to celebrate this wonderful month with me and the Hank’s family… and feel the love in the air!

Welcome to the New Year

by Jamie Leeds

A new year means new beginnings and for me it also means new restaurants. The two new concepts that I’ve been working on over the past year are finally opening at the start of 2016. Looking back on the development makes the end result of The Twisted Horn and Hank’s Pasta Bar so much more rewarding. There were construction woes along the way, but in this industry, that’s par for the course. The main thing is that we were all able to rise above the challenges and build something beautiful together.

There’s nothing quite like opening a restaurant and a bar in the same month to make you appreciate your management staff. Watching Megan Coyle (who was already part of the Hank’s family) take charge as the GM of The Twisted Horn and seeing Daniel Perkal’s passion for his position as GM of Hank’s Pasta Bar have been some of the most rewarding parts of this whole process. Plus, I can hardly wait to share with you the amazing cocktails that Jessica Weinstein has come up with and it has been such a joy working with Chef Nicolas Flores to prepare Hank’s Pasta Bar’s opening menu. It’s going to be exciting to see how they all lead the restaurant and the bar to success… and we’re all going to learn a lot from each other along the way!

As I reflect on this past year, I can’t help but think about what lies ahead for this coming year. I’m so excited to finally welcome the community of Petworth to our list of neighbors, and to welcome old friends from Old Town to Hank’s Pasta Bar. As we strengthen our roots in these neighborhoods, I’m also excited to continue our expansion to The Wharf. Hank’s Oyster Bar on the Wharf will be my biggest project to date, but what I’ve learned is that with hard work, faith, a lot of excitement and a great team, things always fall into place… And I hope you are just as excited as I am for what 2016 will bring!

Happy Holidays!

by Jamie Leeds

This month the focus is on all things openings! My new craft cocktail bar, The Twisted Horn, is finally opening in the middle of December. We’ve ordered the glassware, we’ve hired the staff, we’ve finalized the recipes and we are more ready than ever to start mixing drinks for the vibrant community in Petworth.

As our restaurant family expands, one of our veteran employees Jeff Strine has been promoted from GM of Hank’s Dupont to Director of HR & Training for all of JL Restaurant Group. He’s been the perfect person to get us off the ground with training for both The Twisted Horn as well as Hank’s Pasta Bar (which is opening soon too, by the way). And don’t worry, Jeff will still be popping into Hank’s Dupont to say a friendly hello from time to time.

While we’re making big changes around here, there are some traditions that we’ll always hold on to. Every holiday season we dress up the restaurants with festive decorations and it really gets me in the mood to start planning the staff holiday party. This year I’m fortunate enough to host it at Hank’s Pasta Bar- the first party in the new space! It will be an evening filled with fun and celebration. My favorite part is the trivia game, where everyone takes a chance at guessing things like which server has sold the most Lobster Rolls or how many people have ordered the Hanky Panky this year.

Lobster Rolls and Hank Panky’s aside, the holiday season is always a time full of happiness and joy for me. I can’t help but feel grateful when I think about The Twisted Horn and Hank’s Pasta Bar joining in on those happy holiday traditions and even creating traditions of their own. I’m looking forward to watching these new concepts grow, just like I’ve watched Hank’s Oyster Bar grow. So, please wish us luck on our two new ventures and I hope you all have a very happy holiday season!