Business and Money, capitals hockey, Downtown, Penn Quarter, Sports Fix, The Features

Hockey’s Back – Should We Care?

Photo courtesy of deejayqueue
Empty Verizon Center
courtesy of deejayqueue

In case you missed it among the news of yet another Washington sports team’s playoff collapse, the NHL lockout is over. Which means the Capitals will soon be plying their trade at the Verizon Center.

We’ve had a few people ask over the last few months why we’ve not posted any lockout news here on WeLoveDC. It’s a reasonable question, considering we’ve been covering the Caps pretty solidly since our site debut. But we’ll be honest: we just didn’t feel like it.

On Sunday, messages from various teams around the NHL hit fan inboxes. Around here, the missive from Caps (and Wizards) owner Ted Leonsis sparked a flurry of conversation between Tom, Addison, and myself. Rather than keep it to ourselves, we felt it only right to vent our collective frustration here. After the jump, we break our silence and share our thoughts on the lockout, the league, the Caps’ coming season…and what it means to be a hockey fan in a crumbling hockey town.

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Adventures, Entertainment, Food and Drink, Fun & Games, Life in the Capital, Penn Quarter, Special Events, The Daily Feed, The District

Start Halloween Early With “A Spooky Adventure” at 901 Restaurant

If you’re looking to make your Halloween costume go beyond the 31st, then Penn Quarter’s 901 Restaurant is your place to make that happen, because this Wednesday, October 17th at 9pm, they’ll be hosting a sultry Halloween soiree with trick-o-treat inspired sips.

Show up in your Halloween-inspired attire and you’ll get a complimentary drink ticket for either a Bloody Bang, a mixture of Emperor Imperial, homemade raspberry puree and champagne, served up on the rocks topped with fresh raspberries and a lemon peel, or a Midnight Aura, a savory mix of Belvedere, lemon, home spiced Asian pear puree, ginger and lemon bitters served in a martini glass.

Tunes will be provided by DJ Steve Starks of Nouveau Riche and 901′s marble tabletops, lounge couches, veiled curtains and candle lit ambiance should make for the ideal setting to get in the Halloween mood.

 

Downtown, Food and Drink, Penn Quarter, The Daily Feed

Del Frisco’s Grille Opens July 14

Photo courtesy of wfyurasko
This used to be Les Halles
courtesy of wfyurasko

Who said DC was moving away from steakhouses these days? Del Frisco’s Grille, an American bar and steakhouse, announced yesterday that it will be opening its downtown location on Saturday, July 14. Del Frisco’s will occupy the old Les Halles space on 1201 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.

The Penn Quarter restaurant will feature 100 seats on their outdoor patio and a “wall of wine” with more than 5,000 bottles from more than 400 types of wine to choose from.

Leading the kitchen is a familiar face: executive chef Rob Klink, who was previously at the nearby Oceanaire. “The Grille definitely comes from steakhouse roots, but our menu is about variety, with a twist around every corner. From our prime burgers to our fresh seafood dishes, the focus is on quality and flavor,” said Klink in a press release. “I’m especially excited to introduce DC to its new favorite crab cake. After 20 years in the area, I have to say, there’s a new sheriff in town.”

Del Frisco’s Grille menu will feature flatbreads, hearty salads, fresh seafood, sandwiches, prime steaks and “shareable sides,” according to a press release. At the bar, you’ll fine your usual beer, wine and cocktails along with signature shots on tap, such as the Honey Badger, a mix of Tuaca and pineapple.

Del Frisco’s Grille will be open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 AM to 3:00 PM and for dinner from Monday through Thursday from 5 to 11 PM, Friday and Saturday from 5 PM to midnight and on Sunday from 4 to 9:30 PM. The bar will stay open a little longer–until 11 PM on Sundays, midnight Monday through Friday, and 1 AM on Saturdays.

Food and Drink, Penn Quarter, The Daily Feed

New Pastry Chef Brings New Desserts to The Source

Photo courtesy of bonappetitfoodie
Turtle Cheesecake at The Source
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

The Source by Wolfgang Puck has welcomed a new pastry chef, Duane Copeland, to the Penn Quarter eatery. Copeland was previously the pastry chef at L’ Auberge Provencale in White Post, VA. His dessert menu at The Source features new and thoughtful creations that pay homage in clever ways to the restaurant’s Asian focus.

Photo courtesy of bonappetitfoodie
Azuki Streusel Tart at The Source
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

Though you might not give carrot cake a second glance on a menu, the 15-layer carrot cake at The Source is a study in what carrot cake ought to be, and the ginger ice cream has a little bite to cut the sweetness of the cake. Copeland’s turtle cheesecake was another favorite and a good option for those of you who want dessert but barely have room for it (read: it’s light, fluffy and delicious). For something a little out of the ordinary, the azuki streusel tart was a sort of deconstructed dessert–salsify chips with a sake ice cream, popped corn kernels and tiny cubes of coconut gelee. If you think you don’t like sake, you might reconsider that after trying Copeland’s sake ice cream. Other desserts currently on the new menu include a yuzu-lime tart, a jasmine rice pudding and a chocolate ganache torte.

Photo courtesy of bonappetitfoodie
Pepino’s Revenge at The Source
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

While you’re there, be sure to also check out The Source’s new spring cocktails. The Pandora’s Box with St. Germain liqueur and an elderflower syrup will satisfy those of you who enjoy a flowery, fragrant drink. If you’re going for something a little less delicate, try the refreshing Pepino’s Revenge with silver tequila, lime, basil and Japanese cucumber or the Monroe’s Passion with passion fruit rum, ginger, orange and cranberry and a little bit of a chili syrup that will leave your mouth with a pleasant tingle.

Interviews, Penn Quarter, People, Special Events, The Features

Scribblings: Max Holland

Photo courtesy of cliff1066�
Richard Nixon, Time cover April 30, 1973, “The Watergate Scandal”
courtesy of cliff1066�

On Friday, March 16, join author Max Holland for a look at Mark Felt, the FBI official behind “Deep Throat,” the secretive whistleblower of the Watergate scandal. Holland will be speaking at the International Spy Museum from noon until 2 p.m. on his latest book, Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat.

Best known through Hal Holbrook’s portrayal in the film version of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s All the President’s Men, Felt was regarded for decades as a conscientious but highly secretive whistleblower who shunned the limelight. Yet even after he finally revealed his identity in 2005, questions about his true motivations persisted.

Max Holland has found the missing piece of that Deep Throat puzzle—one that’s been hidden in plain sight all along. He reveals for the first time in detail what truly motivated the FBI’s number-two executive to become the most fabled secret source in American history. In the process, he directly challenges Felt’s own explanations while also demolishing the legend fostered by Woodward and Bernstein’s bestselling account. Continue reading

Downtown, Food and Drink, Penn Quarter, The Features

First Look: New Menu at 901 Restaurant

WineRoom
All photos courtesy of Jessica Zachar

901′s motto, “Sexy. Sophisticated. Sharing.” had me a bit–how do I put it–standoffish, because sometimes you just want Simple. Straightforward. So mine. But last week, the Penn Quarter restaurant debuted their entirely new, revamped menu. One that actually matches the concept. Previously, the menu was haphazard and inspired by: all over the place. But the restaurant owners acknowledged their shortcomings and refocused the food, creating a brand new menu meant to be shared, and with a decidedly Asian flare.

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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, Penn Quarter, The Features

Capital Chefs: Fabio Trabocchi of Fiola (Part 2)

Photo courtesy of bonappetitfoodie
Tuscan Tomato Soup & Buffalo Mozzarella Toast at Fiola
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

Put down the Kraft singles. Step away from the cheese whiz or whatever else you’re holding in your hand. Grilled cheese and tomato soup is about to be taken to a whole new level. Fiola style. And in this frigid weather as of late, this hearty soup and sandwich will keep you warm and your belly full.

For Fabio Trabocchi, the chef and mastermind behind Fiola, he says “there’s a lot to learn from what a kid likes,” and occasionally uses it as inspiration in the kitchen. In this dish, Trabocchi takes a childhood classic and makes a grownup version that I’m sure you’ll enjoy.

Click through for the full recipe and here for more pictures.

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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, Penn Quarter, The Features

Capital Chefs: Fabio Trabocchi of Fiola (Part 1)

Photo courtesy of bonappetitfoodie
Chef Fabio Trabocchi of Fiola
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

Ask Fabio Trabocchi what the biggest challenge for him is and you’ll get an interesting answer. “There are no challenges,” he says, and promptly laughs as if to correct himself. Normally, I’d be surprised by such an answer, but when you think about what the chef of Fiola has achieved–a James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic in 2006, Chef of the Year from the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington in 2005, Food & Wine’s Best New Chef in 2002, oh and not to mention working at a 3 star Michelin restaurant by 16 years old–you might think this super-chef has indeed transcended any challenges. Trabocchi clarifies: “It depends on how you look at a challenge. That’s what makes it fun. It’s challenging to run out of challenges. Every challenge is very exciting.”

The chef explained that while some other people might look at work in terms of hours, he chooses not to and frankly, says he doesn’t have time to. “I do this because I really like it,” he says. “I’m involved in the food, the financial side–in every part of the restaurant. I like all the aspects of [the restaurant industry].” As he moves around the kitchen and talks to me in our interview, it’s clear that Trabocchi operates with a certain degree of intensity and razor-sharp focus. Every move is done with purpose. He explains how his work as a chef differs from most: “Other professions can go back and fix their work. A cook puts food on the plate and gets that one chance.”

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Food and Drink, Penn Quarter, The Features, We Love Food

We Love Food: Poste Moderne Brasserie

Photo courtesy of bonappetitfoodie
Pork Rillettes at Poste Moderne Brasserie
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

Back in September, there was a changing of posts at Poste when Dennis Marron became the new executive chef. It’s always interesting to see how a chef changes up a menu and makes it their own, so when I received a recent dinner invitation to check out Marron’s new menu, I jumped at the chance.

Poste is one of those rare gems–a restaurant located in a hotel that actually serves delicious dishes that keep you coming back for more. Marron’s menu is expansive and covers all the brasserie fare such as mussels and frites, as well as burgers and traditional French dishes such as beef bourguignon and coq au vin. For the person in your life that bemoans small menus, take them to Poste. From the taste of it, Marron’s switch to a classic French menu with some modern twists here and there (ie: the onion soup burger or the banh mi sandwich) was the right call.
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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, Penn Quarter, The Features

Capital Chefs: Mike Isabella of Graffiato (Part 2)

Photo courtesy of bonappetitfoodie
Mike Isabella’s Pork and Beans
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

Pork belly, the stuff of Gods. And if you’ve had the delectable version at Graffiato, you know exactly what I’m talking about–melt in your mouth pork with that nice seared, caramelized outer edge, complimented by a roughly pureed bed of cannelini beans. Chef Mike Isabella shared the recipe with me in the most recent Capital Chefs which you can find after the jump. On a cold winter’s day, this dish is perfect.
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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, Penn Quarter, The Features

Capital Chefs: Mike Isabella of Graffiato (Part 1)

Photo courtesy of bonappetitfoodie
Mike Isabella of Graffiato
courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

Chef Mike Isabella describes himself as intense, focused and driven. And at first you might be intimidated by the tattoos or the serious face when he asks a line cook about a certain dish, not to mention his culinary prowess that landed him on Top Chef and as a runner-up on Top Chef All Stars. But then you mention you’re both from New Jersey or make an astute comment about a dish, and right away the ice is broken, the conversation is off to a start and you wonder how anyone could describe the chef as anything but affable and welcoming.

Like many of the chefs I talk to, Isabella started cooking at a young age just by keeping busy in the kitchen with this grandmother. “I loved the smell of her cooking. Helping her kept me occupied,” he said. From there, becoming a chef was a no-brainer. “This was the only thing I wanted to do. So I knew I couldn’t fail and I worked my ass off.”

The northern Jersey native started out at The Restaurant School in New York, followed by a stint in Philadelphia working with the likes of Stephen Starr, Jose Garces and Marcus Samuelsson. After Philadelphia, Isabella moved to Atlanta to work at a greek restaurant, Kyma, before coming to DC to be the executive chef at Jose Andres’ Zaytinya for three years. Today, you probably know Isabella best from Top Chef and from Graffiato, his Italian restaurant he opened in Chinatown this past summer. “I had grown up in New Jersey, went to New York and then Philly and Atlanta, but I couldn’t find the right fit for me,” Isabella says. In a goldilocks-esque moment, it turned out that DC was just right for the chef. “DC is the perfect size,” he says, adding that the farms in the area are a huge asset. “This city sticks together. We all [in the culinary scene] support one another and make each other better. Chefs here always welcome new people with open arms.” Continue reading

Food and Drink, Foodie Roundup, Penn Quarter, The Daily Feed, We Love Food

We Love Food: Quick Update on Restaurant Happenings

Photo courtesy of
‘America Eats Tavern- Washington, DC’
courtesy of ‘Plantains & Kimchi’

For those of you who avidly follow the food scene, this all might be old news. But to those of you who don’t eat, sleep and drink DC food coverage, here’s a little roundup on some of the latest restaurant happenings around DC.

Have no fear about not getting to José Andrés’ America Eats Tavern in time before it closes. The restaurant announced that it will be staying open through July 4, 2012–closing exactly a year after it first opened this past summer. Don’t forget that the “What’s Cooking Uncle Sam?” exhibit, which served as inspiration for the restaurant concept and of which Andrés is the chief culinary advisor to, will close on January 3rd.

In “ancient” news by classic journalistic standards, Mike Isabella is opening a restaurant in the former Hook space in Georgetown. Hook and its sister restaurant, Tackle Box, had been closed since a fire in late June. Eater DC has a full recap of the drama behind how the story of Isabella’s new restaurant broke. All of that aside, Bandolero will be a “modern Mexican small-plates concept,” with dishes such as salsas, ceviches, tacos, and Isabella’s version of fajitas, according to a news release. Bandolero is set to open in early 2012.

Staying in the Georgetown area, PAUL Bakery has launched a second location in DC, which officially opened its doors on November 21st. The french bakery has enough seating for 30 to 40 patrons in Georgetown, or you can just grab a baguette to go seven days a week. PAUL had opened its first DC location in May 2011.

And lastly, unlike the other news about restaurant openings, The Washington Post reported that Ba Bay in Eastern Market closed its doors. As Tim Carman reported, Ba Bay closed “due to circumstances beyond our [the owner's] control.” No word on whether owners and cousins Denise Nguyen and Khoa Nguyen will open another Vietnamese-style restaurant or another Ba Bay elsewhere.

Downtown, Penn Quarter, Special Events, The Daily Feed

Stalin’s Spies: an ISM Event

Photo courtesy of
‘The Secret’
courtesy of ‘bhrome’

This Friday at 4:30 pm, the International Spy Museum, in cooperation with the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies, is hosting an event on Stalin-era espionage. The free event includes the opportunity to view unique artifacts from the life of one of the Soviet Union’s most famous spies, Dmitri Bystrolyotov, as well as a chance to interact with the Museum’s historians and several panel experts.

Dmitri was the Soviet Union’s real life James Bond, earning a reputation as one of the greatest Soviet Spies of all time. He was a sailor, doctor, lawyer and artist recruited by Stalin for his dashing good looks and ease with languages to seduce secrets from willing targets during the 1920s and 30s. However, after falling out of Stalin’s favor, Dmitri was sentenced to the Gulag for 16 years.

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Penn Quarter, The Daily Feed

DCCK’s 2011 Capital Food Fight

IMG_0273
‘DCCK Capital Food Fight 2010′
courtesy of ‘bonappetitfoodie’

It’s that time of year again: Capital Food Fight. On November 10th, four local chefs will battle it out on stage while raising money for DC Central Kitchen.

This year’s competing chefs include Todd Gray from Equinox/Watershed, Haidar Karoum from Proof/Estadio, Jeff Black from BlackSalt Restaurant Group/Pearl Dive Oyster Palace and Brian McBride from Blue Duck Tavern. Each chef will compete in a cook-off battle featuring a secret ingredient. Chefs will be judged by a panel including Ted Allen of Food Network’s Chopped, award-winning cookbook author Joan Nathan and host of Simply Ming, Ming Tsai. Last year’s Food Fight included a bonus battle between team Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert and team Tom Colicchio and Jose Andres, which I’m betting they might do something like this again at this year’s competition. Bourdain will be returning as the host and Jose Andres will be serving as the chair of the event. In addition to the friendly chef competition, more than 60 local restaurants will be serving a variety of small bites.

The 2011 Capital Food Fight is at 6 PM on Thursday, November 10th at the Ronald Reagan Building in Penn Quarter. Tickets are $200 and all proceeds go to DCCK. You can follow the conversation about the 2011 Capital Food Fight with @DCCK’s hashtag, #FoodFight.

Entertainment, Interviews, Music, Penn Quarter, Special Events, The Features

National Memorial Day Concert: Behind the Scenes

Photo by Rachel Levitin

Each year, PBS presents the National Memorial Day Concert live from the National Mall. The show features some of the top musical acts in the nation and around the world. This year’s show had special meaning to the production crew, performers, veterans, active soldiers, and all Americans due to the recent capture of Osama Bin Laden.

The 2011 program shown on Sunday evening commemorated the tenth anniversary of September 11. The show was also a “thank you” to our troops who have been serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as their families in addition to being a tribute to our World War II veterans on the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

A few of the musical acts including American Idol winner Kris Allen, word renowned classical vocalist Hayley Westenra and Grammy award winner Yolanda Adams took a few moments to speak with We Love DC in between their rehearsal sets the day before the live show. The west lawn of the Capitol played the perfect backdrop  to an event unique to the District and the performers involved were more than grateful for being an active part of this live tribute to our Armed Forces. Continue reading

Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, Penn Quarter, The Features

Capital Chefs: Kaz Kazmi of Merzi (Part 2)

Photo courtesy of
‘Food’
courtesy of ‘MichaelTRuhl’

It’s easy to be intimidated by the prospect of cooking Indian food. Will it turn out right? Will my kitchen smell like curry for days? Am I better off ordering from a restaurant in town that actually knows what they’re doing? But take my word for it: making Indian food, really good Indian food, doesn’t have to be that hard. Save your pennies on having someone else make you chicken tikka masala; you can do this.

After the jump you’ll find Kaz Kazmi’s recipe for pakoras, a traditional Indian fried vegetable fritter. They’re flavorful and spicy and taste so good that before you know it the entire batch you made will be gone.
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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, Penn Quarter, The Features

Capital Chefs: Kaz Kazmi of Merzi (Part 1)

Photo courtesy of
‘Owner Qaiser Kazmi’
courtesy of ‘MichaelTRuhl’

There’s a phrase that comes to mind after talking to Qaiser (Kaz) Kazmi: “go big or go home.” The father of three and entrepreneur gave up the corporate life working in IT and set his sights on creating an Indian-inspired concept back in 2005. Today, he’s working on perfecting the first Merzi restaurant in Penn Quarter/Chinatown and looking to expand across the city, and eventually across the country.

Merzi, which means “choice” in Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu, came about after Kaz found himself becoming less and less connected with his career and more and more invested in his passion for food. But for someone who wasn’t classically trained as a chef, there were a few bumps in the road. “In 2002, we were having some people over, and I said to my wife: ‘If these kabobs I make are delicious, then I’m ready for a restaurant,’” said Kaz, laughing a bit. As the story goes and as we’ve all experienced before in the kitchen, Kaz’s attempt to look for a sign from God or the stove ended in what he referred to as “terrible kabobs.”

But a few years of research and taste testing later, Kaz created a concept to bring Indian food to a level that is comfortable and  not intimidating for Americans.

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Food and Drink, Penn Quarter, The Daily Feed

Café Atlántico Celebrates Carnaval

The Caipirinha
The Caipirinha
by Samer Farha

Although chef José Andrés has yet to respond to my offer to judge a Gin and Tonic showdown (which still stands) it’s worth noting that tonight from 4-6, there’s a free cachaça tasting at Café Atlántico. It’s the first event in the restaurant’s Brazilian Carnaval, which culminates next Tuesday with a three-course, prix fixe dinner, samba performance, and dance party. If you’re looking for a different sort of Mardi Gras experience, you could do worse than Carnaval.

If you’re not familiar with it, cachaça, a spirit distilled from raw sugarcane, can be considered a cousin of Rhum Agricole, which itself is not to be confused with other types of rum distilled from molasses. Like rum, it can be light or dark depending on the process and aging. Unlike rum, cachaça has up to six grams per liter of added sugar. Confused? Afraid? Don’t be. If you like rum, you’ll probably like cachaça too. The classic cocktail featuring cachaça is a caipirinha. In its purest expression, it is a sipping cocktail consisting of little more than muddled lime and sugar, crushed ice, and cachaça, in an old fashioned glass. Some bartenders serve theirs in a Collins (tall) glass, topped with soda, which makes an excellent refresher in warm weather.

Tonight at Café Atlántico you can sample two different brands of cachaça: from Leblon, casked in Cognac barrels, and Novo Fogo, whose silver cachaça is rested in steel tanks so it is still white. Also part of its Carnaval celebration, the restaurant hosts a capoeira demonstration on Sunday and the aforementioned dinner on Tuesday. Reservations are recommended for the weekend and required for Tuesday night’s dinner.

I’ll be there Tuesday night to lean on Chef Andrés personally on the matter of his bar’s gin and tonic. Oh, and to try the food. I’ll report back on that subject next week.

Entertainment, Penn Quarter, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Oedipus el Rey

Oedipus El Rey at Woolly Mammoth

Jocasta and Oedipus (Romi Diaz and Andres Munar)
by Stan Barouh for Woolly Mammoth, used with permission

Oedipus. We all know the myth. Ill-fated to kill his father and marry his mother. The solver of the riddle of the Sphinx. Pride before fall. Blinded at the end.

Now take that myth, rattle it in Zeus’s dice cup, and roll it out into a barrio in LA. Throw in gang culture, incarceration, full nudity and onstage bloody eye gouging – not to mention desecration of the Bible and forced heroin use – and you have yourself quite the reinterpretation of the Greek myth.

It’s rare that I see a play whose audacity leaves me speechless. Not every re-imagining of familiar myth is successful, but playwright Luis Alfaro grounds his firmly in machismo and folklore, and it works. Backed by the stark prison of a set by Misha Kachman, all clanging iron and cutting wire, and a haunting musical mix by composer Ryan Rumery weaving the power of industrial with wistful ballads, Oedipus el Rey dares you to be shocked. The worldly audience at Woolly Mammoth, long used to boundary breaking, laughed a bit nervously at press night as the opening scenes unfolded with the Coro (the traditional Chorus) speaking rhythmically in Chicano accents and asking repeatedly “quien es este hombre?” while Oedipus (Andres Munar) holds plank for what seems like forever. Imagine the reaction when he and Jocasta (an absolutely riveting Romi Diaz) strip down to their tattoos and make out. And as for that eye gouging… when the eyes hit the floor, my jaw did too.

Those last two are probably the elements you will hear about the most, because they are shocking, even in our blase times. The ancients described these moments in words, but they were never shown onstage. But don’t let that deviation from the classical norm overshadow what is essentially a deeply poetic, moving play. It contrasts the fear of the futility of escaping your fate with the desire to be more than what you are seen to be, by your peers, by your parents, by yourself. The universal human desire to soar above the dirty hard world we live in, to be “un rey.”

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Food and Drink, Penn Quarter, The Daily Feed

Friday Happy Hour: West Islayer

West Islayer (photo by author)

It’s time for Friday Happy Hour, highlighting a drink we’ve recently enjoyed, every Friday at 4pm! Please share your favorites as well.

One of my besties, Heidi, wanted celebrate her birthday with a low-key, grown-up sort of celebration in which a group of us went out for a nice dinner and cocktails at a nicer sort of restaurant. Our group, though, is all vegetarians or vegans, so the choices for fancy spots can feel limited. She picked Rasika for the ample offerings of both veg fare and original cocktails.

Jason Stritch was behind the bar that night and we enjoyed a number of his creations. He told me he spends about thirty hours a week just prepping ingredients – creating his own syrups, growing herbs, and brewing his own cider (which was the best cider I have ever tasted – though I am not much of a cider fan). The first thing he whipped up for me was a Scotch-based cocktail called the “West Islayer.”

Scotch can be a challenging base for a cocktail – most Scotch-tails I have tasted leave me wishing I just ordered a tumbler of the stuff without mixers – but the campfire smokiness of a Laphroaig Scotch is so appealing this time of year that I gave the drink a chance. It won me over immediately.

To the smoky Laphroaig, the drink adds spiced honey and allspice dram. The sweetness and hint of spice add a wonderful walking-on-damp-leaves-in-autumn quality. Everyone who sampled my drink – and, with an aroma like the West Islayer has, everyone around wants to sample it – enjoyed it, be they regular Scotch drinkers or the person who claims they do not like to drink “anything brown.”