Irish chef Cathal Armstrong cooking up a storm in Washington, D.C.


Waters came to Washington, D.C. shortly after Obama's inauguration. She came to visit the gardens at Monticello and also cut a straight path across the Potomac to Armstrong’s Restaurant Eve, in Alexandria, Virginia’s Old Town.

In addition to the garden, Armstrong has a 34-seat tasting room which features a five and nine course prix-fix tasting menu which reads like a what's-what of fresh, local and seasonal creations paired with and inventive cocktails from sommelier and resident mixologist Todd Thrasher.  

Armstrong focuses on dishes that the restaurant does really well, with produce provided by local farmers. He throws in the occasional “aggressive dish” like sweetbreads or skate.  The food also reflects his mood.

“If I'm angry you can tell,” he laughs.

“Angry dishes” usually include more vinegar and olive oil, he explains. It is nothing intentional, but his feelings just pour over into his food.

“The sea is calm this evening,” he assures.

Invariably the conversation turns back to Ireland. The words flow in almost complete, uninterrupted paragraphs.

“It's an agriculturally wealthy, wealthy county,” he says, picking up speed. “The reason it's so green is the mild weather and the rain. But because of that, you have grass growing, so you can raise amazing beef and amazing lamb.

“It's an island so it has some of the most amazing seafood you can find anywhere in the world. And again, because of the temperate climate, you can grow crops year round outside. So there is a wide, wide range of amazing foods available. We've seen cheeses like Ardrahan, equal to if not better than some of the best cheese made in the world.”

Armstrong is talking about the semi-soft cow's milk cheese from Co. Cork, with its earthy undertones and zesty tang, which he serves in his restaurants.

“I don't show them just because they're Irish,” Armstrong says. “I show them because they're Irish and they're that good.”

His restaurant Eamonn's A Dublin Chipper, is an Irish pub thru-and-thru, from the fresh fish and hand-cut chips down to the “mushy peas” and Irish sodas and candies.

“We make all our own bacon in the Irish style here,” he says. “It's brine cured pork so it's pink all the way through, and we do this really great sandwich for lunch. It's an Irish B.L.T. It's really delicious. It's like a rasher sandwich.”

He uses “subtle hints of Irish ingredients,” the Kerrygold butter, the artisanal cheeses like Ardrahan and Cashel Blue, and he also makes his own versions of Irish specialties like white pudding and black pudding, but Restaurant Eve is “definitely an American restaurant, and I'm proud it's an American restaurant.”

It is also a showcase for the best of what Ireland has to offer.  It combines everything he loves about his two countries. And that mix is what attracted him to America in the first place.

It's kind of corny,” Armstrong says. “I was born in Ireland but I was made in the USA.”