Peacock Friends

D.C. United defender Steve Birnbaum’s perfect day

In D.C. Dream Day, we ask our favorite people in the area to tell us how they would spend a perfect day in the District. See previous dream days from Mayor Muriel Bowser, BYT’s Svetlana Legetic, Story District’s Amy Saidman and more.


Steve Birnbaum will always be a Southern California kid at heart. After D.C. United drafted the defender in 2014, the nation’s capital presented no shortage of culture shock. “Everything was just so fast-paced,” says Birnbaum, 27. “I would ride my skateboard to the Metro and I’d be wearing shorts and a hat or whatever. Everyone would be in suits … staring at me like, ‘Does this guy have a job?’ ” Well, yes: Over five professional seasons, Birnbaum has earned MLS All-Star honors, made 11 appearances for the U.S. national team and regularly worn the captain’s armband for a United club that will christen its new stadium, Audi Field, on Saturday. He also can now call himself a true Washingtonian, having relocated from Arlington to Logan Circle two years ago with his fiancee, Jeanne Shewmaker, the director of merchandising at Georgetown boutique Tuckernuck. While there’s no soccer on Birnbaum’s D.C. dream day, the sports world still looms large.

I’d love to start by playing golf. I have a buddy who manages 1757 Golf Club out in Virginia and I’d drive out there, get an early tee time — a 7:30 a.m. tee time is ideal for me. So I’d wake up at 5 and play until 11 or noon.

I’d then get home in Logan Circle and ride my bike from Logan to Peacock Cafe in Georgetown, which is my favorite restaurant in the city — especially for lunch and brunch. I usually get the Sophia Loren, a turkey sandwich. Shahab [Farivar], the [co-]owner, is great, and he always recommends it. It’s a day off, so maybe I’ll have a beer. They also have these cookie ice cream almost sandwiches, so I’d get that. And I’d then stop by my fiancee’s work in Georgetown.

Read more at Washington Post…

Peacock Friends

Kristen Wiig Was Just Spotted Shopping on 14th Street, NW

Kristen Wiig was spotted shopping on 14th Street, Northwest, Friday afternoon. Wiig is in town filming the Wonder Woman movie sequel, Wonder Woman 1984, in which she plays Barbara Minerva, also known as Cheetah. Comics fans know her character as a supervillian, an artifact-obsessed archaeologist seeking to obtain, among other things, Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth. Preliminary set stills show Wiig portrayed in what appears to be a natural history museum.

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Wiig stopped into both Salt & Sundry and Little Leaf  for some light shopping in a casual-cool ensemble of yellow overalls, a striped shirt, some apparently well-loved Birkenstocks, and giant sunglasses.

A witness described her as “cute and unassuming.” Wiig is apparently a fan of quality paper goods: she appeared to pick up some cards.

Besides Wiig, Gal Gadot, who plays Diana Prince, has been spotted several times around town, including dining at Rasika, hanging out around Georgetown at the Peacock cafe, as well as hovering over the Capitol Building. The original Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter, has also been making appearances as late. Carter is not only a local (she lives in Potomac) also a serious Caps fan.


Peacock Friends

Gal Gadot hangs out in Georgetown

Hey, isn’t that … Gal Gadot, who’s in town filming the “Wonder Woman” sequel, having a casual dinner at the Peacock Cafe in Georgetown Monday night?

The actress, who plays the titular superhero, was off-duty chic in sandals, white skinny jeans and a summery T-shirt, a spy says. Gadot was with a small party, per our source, and was friendly with other patrons (she walked her young daughter around the restaurant a bit). Clearly, she’s getting to know the town’s restaurant scene (she was spotted last week at Rasika West End).

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Meanwhile, the OG Wonder Woman, Potomac resident Lynda Carter — who famously played the Amazonian princess on the long-running TV show — has been spotted out and about, too: Carter is a massive Caps fan and has been seen rocking the red at Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup finals. The team’s official Twitter account posted a video Monday night of Carter — wearing a jersey over a stylish upturned-collared blouse — cheering them on. “The Original #WonderWoman is back for Game 4!” was the caption. “@RealLyndaCarter is the best.”


Ex Wizards Paul Pierce @ Peacock

It was an honor to have one the basketball #legends Paul Pierce for lunch before heading over to #wizards and #cavs game. #paulpierce@paulpierce34 #powerlunch #paulpierce34 @maziar3251 #georgetowndc #hotspots #peacockcafesince1991

Food Peacock Friends

Peacock at the White House

While you were spending your spring break at the beach getting tropical, First Lady Michelle Obama was in D.C. getting cultural.

The First Lady held a celebration in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday in honor of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. Here’s what you missed:

1. Celebrating culture

To introduce Obama, University of Maryland student Ashley Azmoodeh spoke about her own family’s connection to the holiday and its importance.

“The most memorable celebration from my childhood, one that we continue to celebrate annually, is Nowruz, meaning ‘New Day,’” Azmoodeh said.

The First Lady paid homage to the holiday by noting its long history and cultural significance for people around the world.

Obama also presented the White House Haft Seen, the traditional table setting of Nowruz. The Haft Seen, which translates to “the seven S’s,” features seven items placed on a table to symbolize seven new hopes for the new year, including blessings, patience, love, sweetness and rebirth.

2. Local traditions with a worldview

Nowruz at the White House was designed as a celebration of diversity and global connections. Guests, including local leaders in business, education, government and entertainment, packed the East Room.

Keeping with the local trend, guest chef Maziar Farivar of the Peacock Cafe in Georgetown cooked a meal for the guests. The menu aimed to celebrate the importance of family by taking old family recipes from White House staffers and giving them a gourmet upgrade.

“I think it’s so fitting that we’re holding this celebration here today because one of my favorite things about the White House is how it is truly the people’s house,” Obama said. “A house that reflects the diversity of culture and traditions that make us who we are as a country, and Nowruz is one of those traditions.”

The Maryland-based Silk Road Dance Company also performed dances from around the world.

“I hope that you feel at home, and feel the welcome, the love, the spirit of this holiday,” Obama said. “I hope you enjoy the food, the friendship and just being at the White House. Isn’t it cool?”

3. The renewal of a ‘new day’

During her remarks, the First Lady talked about the changing weather and arrival of spring in D.C., connecting spring to the themes of rebirth and renewal celebrated for Nowruz.

While presenting the White House Haft Seen, Obama mentioned some items that were displayed on the table.

“We’ve got grass sprouts that represent rebirth and renewal and nature. We’ve got an apple for health and beauty. We have crushed berry spice that represent the sunrise and the spice of life,” she said. “And after a long winter, we could use a little bit of all of that, right? We’re finally thawing out.”


Persian cuisine, with a cultural mission

The call came quickly and unexpectedly. In early December 2009, just a day after he had filled out paperwork for a different James Beard Foundation event, the New York organization phoned with a request: Could Maziar Farivar prepare a meal for the Persian New Year celebration in March known as Nowruz?

The Peacock Cafe chef and partner agreed despite one relevant fact: He had no real experience preparing Persian food. More to the point, Farivar had not set foot in his native Iran since 1978, when he left just before the fall of the shah and the launch of the Islamic revolution. The chef, in other words, had not sampled a single bite of Persian food, in the land where it was developed, in more than 30 years.

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“I certainly didn’t want to embarrass myself,” recalls Farivar, 50, as he sits in his artsy, white-tablecloth Georgetown restaurant, whose menus have leaned more American and more health-conscious. “I don’t know if this makes any sense, but I felt the pressure of representing my culture.”

The pressure is understandable, and not just from a culinary standpoint. Iranian chefs such as Farivar often talk as if they carry a burden not shouldered by their peers from other countries. Over the years, Iranian kebab store owners have told me flat-out that they affix the term “Persian,” instead of “Iranian,” to their restaurants to avoid aligning themselves with any bad news out of Tehran and potentially losing customers who would callowly punish a business just because of the cuisine’s origins.

Farivar has his own misgivings about the administration in Tehran, but he also knows the country’s current leaders can’t single-handedly erase a Persian culture that stretches back centuries, one rich in art, literature and architecture. The son of a doctor and onetime politician, Farivar grew up in a household that valued education and politics and large spreads of fresh homemade stews and rice. By embracing Persian cuisine and putting a chef-driven spin on it, Farivar thought he could, in his own small way, put a more positive face on a country that he was forced to flee because of its politics.

“There are so many beautiful things about our culture,” he says. “Hopefully we can share some good news after all the negativity.”

All of which sounds good, of course, but Farivar still had to confront a hard reality: He needed to learn how to cook Persian food. And just as critical if he wanted to prepare his native dishes at the James Beard House in New York (or at his own Peacock Cafe): He would then have to turn around and repeat those lessons in Persian cooking to his Latino kitchen staff, most of whom had no idea how the food should taste.

Farivar had a number of resources that he could rely on for his education. Iranian cookbooks and transplants, yes, but also his three older sisters, who had been preparing Persian dishes in America for years.

Unlike her brother, Sepideh Farivar arrived in the United States to attend college well before the revolution. Almost immediately, she started trying to re-create the dishes she ate as a child in Urmia, then known as Rezaiyeh, in northwest Iran. It wasn’t easy. The Farivar children had relied on their mother and maids to cook for them, setting these sumptuous tables with seasonal, highly aromatic khoresht stews, yogurt-based side dishes such as mast-o khiyar (yogurt and cucumbers) and, of course, lots and lots of saffron-scented rice. Iranian ingredients were also hard to come by in mid-1970s America.

Rice, in particular, was an issue. Iranians prefer extra-long-grain rices, such as the fragrant Sadri, which are often grown in northern fields bordering the Caspian Sea. Iranian Americans often have to settle for long-grain basmati rice, which can work if a cook follows the time-intensive Persian method of preparing the grains.

“Getting the rice right, that was a challenge for me,” says Sepideh, 57, who lives in McLean.

It’s hard to overemphasize how central rice is to Persian cuisine — as central as the grains are to Chinese or Indian or even low-country cooking. Plain steamed rice, known as “chelo” in Iran, can serve as a side for khoresht stews or a turmeric-scented white fish. But chelo can be mixed with a wide variety of ingredients as well, whether fava beans or dried fruits or lamb, and instantly become a fluffy “polo” dish. There’s even a line of dishes known as “tahchin,” in which chelo rice is typically mixed with yogurt, eggs and a saffron solution, then combined with meats or vegetables to form these hearty, crusty entrees.

But no matter the preparation, they all begin with proper Persian rice, each grain slender and separate. To achieve this state of fluffy individualism, the rice must be washed several times to remove the starch, then boiled in salted water, drained and, last, steamed in a pot with melted butter. As a final touch, some of the rice will be tinted with a saffron solution to add a splash of canary yellow to the chelo.

The first time Sepideh and her sisters tasted Maziar’s rice, before he headed to New York for the Nowruz dinner, they thought it was fine. But it wasn’t exactly Persian rice. She remembers it being shorter and stickier than the traditional rice. “When you want to serve it,” Sepideh says, “you should see the rice drop one [grain] at a time.”

“It took about 10 or 12 tries,” the chef says, before his Iranian siblings finally gave him the thumbs up on his rice. All things considered, it was a speedy learning process, which is something of a testament to Farivar’s own journey through America.

He arrived in the States at age 16 to live with his oldest sister, Arezou Hennessy, in Dale City until his parents arrived from Iran in 1979 and settled in Stafford. After graduating from Woodbridge High School, Farivar enrolled at Northern Virginia Community College but decided to move out West, where he eventually matriculated at San Francisco State University to study speech and communications.

But he was more passionate about restaurants than about his chosen studies. While in school, he waited tables at Jeremiah Tower’s Stars, where Farivar got a taste of dining at its highest level in America. “One thing I took away from there,” Farivar recalls, “is to keep the standards high no matter what you’re doing.” He also picked up a number of kitchen skills from chef Gerardo Boccara, who used to make the wait staff do prep work at his Nob Hill Cafe in the early 1980s. “I never really thought it would be that useful,” Maziar says.

Those skills did become useful in 1991, when Farivar and his younger brother and business partner, Shahab, opened the Peacock Cafe in a small space at the corner of Prospect Street and Wisconsin Avenue NW. It was a spartan operation; they had a single oven and a hot plate that they would use to cook sauces and boil water for pasta. But even when the brothers moved to more luxurious digs farther down on Prospect — or opened their short-lived Peacock Grand Cafe on K Street NW — they still didn’t incorporate Persian dishes into the menu (although you might be surprised to learn that Maziar’s famous meatloaf is based on his mother’s kufteh, or meatball, recipe).

The Beard invitation forced the chef to confront his culinary past head-on. And yet, in order to cook for the guests at the Persian New Year’s dinner, Farivar had to educate both himself and his kitchen staff, including his longtime chef de cuisine Ruth Lopez, who hails from El Salvador. The learning process was often intuitive. The team would work on a dish, such as pistachio-and-Seville orange soup or a lamb stew with dried limes, until the aromas matched Farivar’s memory of it.

Lopez says she had to essentially translate the chef’s “aroma” language into something she could understand. “I look more for the taste. The aroma, it doesn’t work that well for me,” she says. But “after many tries,” Lopez adds, “I knew exactly what he’s looking for.”

By the time they were done, Farivar and team had developed a five-course menu that featured not only the soup and stew, but also a beet-and-yogurt salad, a pomegranate-glazed roasted quail and a trio of Persian desserts, including cardamom-rosewater custard. The team even created five Persian-themed hors d’oeuvres for Beard members to sample while waiting for the seated dinner. Two of the nibbles, a smoked whitefish and an herb-and-spinach kuku (baked egg dish), were traditional for Nowruz, though served without the usual herbed polo in a concession to the reception format and its need for finger foods.

“I did almost everything that night that was familiar to me,” says Farivar, noting that all of the dishes could have been found in his home town. “I gave them my little twists, what a chef would do with traditional foods.”

The 2010 Nowruz dinner sold out, with 80-plus people packed into “every nook and cranny,” the chef recalls. Its success led not only to another Persian New Year’s dinner for Farivar at the Beard House this year but also to some new wrinkles at the old Peacock Cafe.

“Going to the Beard House certainly helped my confidence that we can approach [Persian food] in an upscale fashion for a sophisticated palate,” Farivar notes. He slowly started adding dishes at Peacock, including other regional Persian specialties, culminating in the spring with the rollout of a separate Persian menu on Wednesdays and Thursdays. In the process, the chef has created something rather unique in Washington: a white-tablecloth Persian restaurant.

“In Iran, refined Persian food was mostly cooked and eaten at home,” Persian cookbook authority Najmieh Batmanglij wrote in an e-mail. “So Iranians abroad have faced two obstacles: They haven’t been living outside Iran as a community very long, and they don’t come from a Persian-food restaurant tradition.”

So even if Farivar can’t make people forget about current events in Iran, he can perhaps make them forget that most Persian food in the area comes from humble kebab carryouts in the suburbs.

“In hindsight,” Farivar says, “we should’ve done it all along. It simply seems natural now.”