Michelin-starred chef Jeremiah Langhorne brings French flavors and philosophies to his latest all-day spot.
“My wife and I go to France a couple times a year,” the James Beard Award-winning Chef Jeremiah Langhorne says about his frequent Gallic retreats. “We really love it there. They have an affinity for food, for quality and for experience that I just don’t see as often in the States.”
It’s the very sort of French dining revolution he hopes to bring to the District with his latest bistro concept Petite Cerise (“little cherry”), which embraces all that is sweet and simple about casual fine dining.
Langhorne is already well known for his Michelin-starred restaurant The Dabney in Blagden Alley, serving up elevated Mid-Atlantic provender with Southern flair, and more than a dash of classic French techniques. The concept for that restaurant harkens back to his own background growing up in D.C., the Shenandoah Valley and Charlottesville, Virginia, and his dismay that there was not a Chesapeake Bay-focused restaurant in D.C.
Shortly after The Dabney’s opening, Langhorne was recognized with much éclat as one of the most promising chefs nationwide. The restaurant began racking up accolades, often topping local and national lists. Almost a decade in, he continues to perfect one of the District’s top dining destinations. Last year, the restaurant went through a refresh — a new, elegant look, a more intimate setting in the open-concept kitchen, and an eight-course chef’s menu showcasing the best of local delicacies.
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Chef Langhorne shares that so many beloved Chesapeake recipes, such as oyster stews and chowders, are indebted to the principles of French culinary arts. Trained in French classic cooking techniques, the self-proclaimed “big Francophile” states he has always had a “deep respect and love for the kind of technique involved in French cooking.”
The decision to open Petite Cerise in March 2023 is a culmination of his years of training, his love of French cuisine, and — more than anything — his belief in sharing enjoyable foods and experiences.
The all-day bistro on 7th Street Northwest nods to French decor — the mosaic-tiled flooring, the champagne-colored walls of the sun-filled upstairs dining room, the centrally-located bar and a certain inviting je ne sais quoi — and serves up classic French fare including escargots en croûte, beef bourguignon and onion soup gratinée.
The Little Cherry + The Little Snail
Tweely named “little cherry” in French, the restaurant’s mascot is a charming snail. This mascot serves as a visual reminder of Langhorne’s larger philosophy: slow down. Good meals with quality ingredients take time to prepare and perfect. Meals are meant to be savored and enjoyed with company. This joie de vivre credo seems simple enough, but it’s a radical concept in the District.
According to a recent Washingtonian article, a study by ezCater found that more workers in the District consume a sad desk salad in front of their computers or skip their lunches altogether than in any other major city in the United States.
“It kind of horrifies me the way we treat food in this city,” Langhorne says about D.C.’s eating habits. Au contraire, in France, he counters, it’s a whole different dining experience. Noting the health benefits — both mental and physical — of conscientious eating, the affable Langhorne launches into a sort of zen soliloquy about the art of modern French cuisine-style reverie.
“Their passion for quality is a really big inspiration for me, and I think that the French cuisine and French people embody what I want others to experience, too,” he says of his decision to offer a sitdown breakfast, rather than mass-produced croissants to be quickly consumed on the Metro’s escalator five minutes before work.
“People are never too busy to sit for 10 or 20 minutes, enjoy a nice coffee, a poached egg or a well-made pastry. Take those moments to enjoy the morning. But it’s so rare we do this.”
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Vive la Révolution!
If Langhorne requests his diners to take time to enjoy their meals, he sets himself to the same standard to perfect his meals. A crawfish dish that takes more than three days to prepare with constant proofing to check on texture and consistency; a French onion soup that is tested, revised and perfected over time; even the frittes are artfully refashioned into the consummate finger food, with just enough salt, fat and crispiness. It’s all about the joy of the experience.
Langhorne, after all, is a chef who finds more of an affinity with the Pixar-animated “Ratatouille,” about a culinary rat who wishes to join Paris’s foodie scene than with the FX favorite “The Bear,” a behind-the-burning-stoves high tension drama set in a Chicago kitchen.
“If I taste something I think is truly delicious or amazing — whether a perfectly ripe peach in the summertime or a dish I spent months working on — if it makes me smile, I want to share that with others,” he says of his general ethos, one of simple pleasures and a generosity of spirit. “Sharing delicious food with other people is just a wonderful thing. That’s at the heart and the core of why we open restaurants and why chefs do what we do.”
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