Jill rushes up to greet me wearing a bright green cardigan and a cute black Ann Taylor dress. (I know, because I have it in pink!) She’s not what you expect in someone whose credentials boast “Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers” and “has completed the Advanced Certificate Course offered through the Wine Spirits and Education Trust.” Jill just looks like she could be any of my girlfriends, but with a totally rockin’ day job – beverage director for Café Atlantico, the popular Penn Quarter eat place that hides Minibar. She’s been with Jose Andres since 2006, and seen Cafe Atlantico through quite a bit. We sat down to talk about my favorite subject – DC, paired with my other favorite subject – food and wine. (Heavy on the wine, given Jill’s passion!)
Me: Name the best part of DC in your opinion?
Jill: I think it would have to be the endless variety of people who you can meet, and what you can do here. My list of things I want to do is long, and some of it you can do on your own and other things with friends.
What would you change about DC if you could?
More bike lanes! Working where I do, I could easily bike from Glover Park (where I live) to work in the time it takes me to drive. But by the time I’m off work on the late shift the Metro is closed and the bus isn’t a great option. I’d also make DC have a better bus system.
How do you think the drinks scene in DC is developing? What do we have enough of, what do we ned more of? Also, did you hear about the argument that DC is a wine city and Baltimore is a beer city – what are your thoughts on that?
DC is a wine city, that makes me proud! But we have tons of beer places. I think this city has a history of drinks – wine and beer go hand in hand to me. If I were to make a chart, I’d have wine leading, with cocktails close behind and beer moving up in popularity.
What are your predictions for drink and cocktail trends in the area in the next few years?
Well classic cocktails are certainly making a comeback, people are recreating them. Wine-wise we’re seeing a greater diversity with wines the public has never heard of, that are obscure. Wines that are darlings of sommeliers. I hope that the trend of organic and sustainable continues, I am always conscious of how grapes are grown, supporting family and smaller wineries.
What is on the cutting edge of mixology here in DC, in your opinion?
I think the clientele we see – they’re diners and drinkers. They’re always ready to try what you make, at least once. If I use spirits I like, people will try them, and you can get away with whatever you want to try.
Tell me about your ideal day in DC meals and drinks – what would you eat for all the meals?
For breakfast I’d go to Colorado Kitchen or Bourbon. For lunch I’d do a garden lunch at Tabard Inn paired with wine. For snack I’d have the steak tartare from Central with a Manhattan, though that’s a pretty large snack. For dinner I’d do Palena with red wine or another Manhattan. For a late night snack I’d go see Derek at the Gibson or Gina at PS7’s and they’d hook me up.
How did you get involved with Jose Andres?
I’ve been at Cafe for three years now. I’ve seen the style change, we’ve rounded out the wine list, gotten half bottles. I’ve stuck with classic cocktails like the mojito, and looked for great food wines.
What is your favorite drink right now?
I like Gin. I always love Manhattans, Bourbon on the rocks. Right now I like wine in cocktails, or creating a riff on wine. I also like playing with texture at minibar – with ice cubes or using food in drinks. Currently with wine I like that we’re seeing mroe varieties from other countries than we have in the past. I like Austria and Northern Italy right now.
What do you do on your days off?
I do laundry, dry cleaning, get pedicures. I’m training for my first triathlon, so I’m usually sweating, whatever I’m doing, biking or swimming. If I’m at home I’m baking, and bringing things in for the staff!