What’s Cooking, Neighbor?
Adam Mahr invites, on average, four to 12 guests per week to join him for dinner at his snug English cottage-style house near Foxhall Road. And no matter what the occasion, number of friends expected or menu, this longtime Georgetown resident and detail-driven tabletop professional still finds time for a quick nap before the first knock at the door.
“You must be organized, make lists and do the basics well in advance,” says Mahr, owner of the European-inspired home decor shop, A Mano, which he opened in 1994, just below the Georgetown Public Library on Wisconsin Avenue. “When I’m doing the cooking, the last thing I want to do is run around at the last minute.”
Whether it’s a buffet or seated dinner, he sets the table a day in advance, preferring a low centerpiece of seasonal fruit in a footed glass bowl to a floral arrangement. “I like to drape grapes over the side.” (For flexibility, a folding table top, stored behind a tall 1820s French library cabinet, increases the dining room capacity from eight to 14.) There are always lots of votive candles in place and lighting fixtures are set on dim. “All the better, the older we get.” A favored main course is grilled lobster, basted with a spicy Thai sauce, served on a bed of baby arugula. The choice is simple. “I love Asian food and I love lobsters.”
Loyal A Mano customers know that Mahr makes house calls, pulling together settings for a dinner party or special event, using both pieces from the clients’ collection as well as new purchases from the store. (Handmade imported French and Italian ceramics, fine linens, crystal and decorative accessories.) “So many people today have things passed down to them. We bring it all together, creating a cohesive collection that’s very personal.”
A Mano stocks more than elegant house wares. He gives a nod of recognition to buyer Kim Hayman for the ever-growing children’s gift department of toys and crafts, which rings-up 30 percent of the shop’s sales. Says Mahr: “It’s so fresh and new.”
Current favorite restaurants from Adam Mahr: Le Diplomate in Logan Circle and Al Tiramisu in Dupont Circle.
Grilled Lobster Basting Sauce á la A Mano Ingredients: ½ cup butter (1 stick) ½ cup olive oil 8 garlic cloves, chopped 2 tbs. fresh ginger, chopped 1 tsp. hot sesame oil 2 tbs. chives, chopped 4 tbs. fresh lemon juice 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, to taste 2 tbs. soy sauce 4 11/2 to 2 pound lobsters 4 cups baby arugula
Directions: Over low heat, sauté garlic and ginger for about 5 minutes. Add butter, sesame oil, chives (reserve a teaspoon for garnish), lemon juice, hot sauce and soy. Simmer on low for another 5-10 minutes, stirring constantly until all the flavors have combined. (Mahr prefers to purchase live lobsters and prepare them for grilling himself. Our suggestion: Ask your fishmonger to partially cook and split the lobsters and further remove the tamale and detach and lightly crack the claws.)
Prepare gas or charcoal grill to medium high heat.
Brush claws and both sides of split lobster with basting sauce, generously applying to meat side. Place claws on grill and cover with baking dish or roasting pan.
Place split lobsters on grill, shell side down, and baste again. Close grill cover for 3 minutes. Open and baste split lobsters. Close grill for another 3 -5 minutes until meat is opaque.
(Grills cook at different temperatures, but 1 1/2 pound lobsters generally take 8 to 10 minutes.)
When fully cooked, remove split lobsters, set aside, and continue to cook the claws for about two minutes.
Place split lobsters and claws on a large platter covered with baby arugula. Spoon-on remaining sauce. Garnish with four quartered lemons and reserved chopped chives.
A Mano, 1677 Wisconsin Ave., N.W., 202-298-7200, www.amano.bz.
What’s Cooking, Neighbor? visits with wine, food and entertaining professionals, who call the Georgetown area home. Walter Nicholls is the food critic for Arlington Magazine and a former staff writer for The Washington Post Food section.