Can’t argue with an institution, right? This week Esquire released The Best Bars in America 2011 list which includes favorite newcommers and old staples. Two Capitol Hill DC Bars made it on the list: Tune Inn and Hawk ‘n’ Dove. Can you guess which category they were in? The Feast caught upwith Tune Inn owner Lisa Nardelli on making the list. Congrats!
Luke’s Lobster opened up yesterday and yes those lobster rolls are good. I was almost convinced to go with the shrimp or crab instead, but that almost like cheating. Looks like this joint will be super popular with the lunch crowd (I really admire people who can wait in sch long lines). A tip: go for dinner, it’s as quiet as can be.
Againn Tavern, the restaurant people have such a hard time pronouncing is shutting its Rockville doors. The Feast spoke to Whisk Group CEO Mark Weiss, and he says there’s a possibility of reopening after Memorial Day. For now, you can always go to Againn in DC.
If you like entertaining, Metrocurean brings us some Perfect Summer Party Menu ideas. Think International Backyard Bash or No Fuss Chili Party.
Fresh off his excellent showing at ARTINI, Brent Davis invited me to sample a few of the new spring cocktails over at British gastropub AGAINN. As I sat sipping drinks observing the happy hour crew, Brent greeted regulars with a friendly wave and a jibe. It was obvious that they love him. Just after telling me a funny story about the gin and cucumber drink he created for a regular called The Modest Lobbyist, the young lady herself entered. It’s that kind of bar.
AGAINN’s beverage menu still has the signature cocktails created by the very talented Bon Vivants of San Francisco, such as the Lady Macbeth and the Bareknuckle Boxer. Brent has added a few of his own, and my favorite was his riff on the Hemingway Daiquiri, called RedRum (ok, the R’s are reversed, like in The Shining, but I am not technologically savvy, so just imagine that font looking far sexier!). Continue reading →
Againn and Art & Soul are both getting new executive chefs. Mike Sindoni, previously the chef de cuisine at Againn, will now be heading up the kitchen as executive chef. Former executive chef at Againn, Wes Morton, has moved to Art & Soul.
For Sindoni, the change to executive chef was a natural progression. He had been working at Againn since it opened in 2009 and had already had an active role in shaping the menu. Now he’s looking forward to collaborating more with the rest of the kitchen staff and floating around new ideas in the kitchen, he says. While there won’t be any major changes to the food at the British gastropub, Sindoni’s background is heavily influenced by Italian food, he says, which could peak through more in the food.
Further downtown at Art & Soul, Wes Morton has just started as the executive chef. “I’m excited about getting back to my Southern roots. It’s the first time in my career where I’ll be able to express myself in this way,” Morton says. Similar to Againn, I don’t think the food will change drastically, though it’s always interesting to see a new chef’s ideas and talents play out on the table. “My goal is to to keep the the essence of what Southern food is while giving our dishes a lighter feel with a modern and clean presentation,” Morton says.
‘264/365 – estadio’
courtesy of ‘dracisk 365/365’
It was a big month for me food-wise this January. I ate at a lot of new to me restaurants that treated me well (Estadio, Masa 14, Againn, Room 11) some new to me restaurants that didn’t treat me so well ([redacted]), and some old favorites that stayed my favorites (Tackle Box, Ted’s Bulletin, Market Lunch, Sticky Rice). And it was a big month for favorite dishes, so much so that some of my standards aren’t making this month’s best dishes list. Fear not, Brick sandwich from Market Lunch and tater tots from Sticky Rice, you’re still numero uno in my heart. Especially you, duck confit from Cork, Mommy loves you most of all.
We Love Drinks authors Kirk and I were really spoiled this year. In 2010 with wine, beer and cocktails alike we saw a resurgence of the desire to enjoy and educate ourselves in the world of libation. Sure we still like a shot from a dive bar but we also love craft cocktails. It’s not a drunk town, it’s a drinks town!
In addition to the old favorites, a number of new places opened up. We found ourselves covering everything we could despite busy day jobs (it certainly improved my tolerance level. shut up, pesky liver, wine is good for you!). There was the continuation of the wine bar explosion with cosy Dickson Wine Bar, DC’s raging beer love with Biergarten Haus and the promise of DC Brau, luscious cocktail smoothies at Fruit Bat, the rough-and-tumble American Ice Co. – I know we missed a few, and I’m going to do my best to stay on top of 2011. We’ve got burning questions in the coming year – will the winter opening of Jack Rose get me to hang out in Adams Morgan again, or will the Bier Baron successfully revive the faded Brickskellar space (and reputation)?
Anything you’d like to see covered? Interested in joining our merry drinks band? Drop me a line, I’d love to know.
The “silly season” is upon us, as a friend likes to call the December holiday rush. Suddenly everyone wants to get together and social opportunities are crammed into every evening in a frenzy before year’s end. You definitely need some relief mixed into that crazy cocktail of fun and stress!
Wait, did I say cocktail?
Luckily the city is full of cocktail classes and other libation tastings to help you connect with friends in a lively way, so you can relax and learn useful something in the process. Even our local madhouse of Type A’s can see the cost benefit in that. So here’s a sampler of upcoming events to both imbibe and educate! Enjoy, and feel free to add your favorites in the comments. Continue reading →
Party season is fast approaching (seriously, when is it not?) and that means it’s time to brush up on your hosting skills! One of my favorite mixologists, the lively JP Caceres, will help guide you through five cocktail recipes at AGAINN this Wednesday, September 15 at an interactive cocktail class.
Starting at 6:30pm, JP will demonstrate how to make such classics as the Old-Fashioned, the Sazerac, and the Daiquiri. If you’ve never tried an original daiquiri, invented around 1900 in Cuba, you are in for a real surprise. In addition, enjoy a welcome punch called the Gun Hill featuring pisco infused pineapple, hibiscus, velvet falernum, and sage. Sounds luscious.
JP is probably the least intimidating bartender I’ve ever met (ask for one of his business cards to see the best self-deprecating quote) and I’m sure will be a wonderful and fun teacher. The session costs $35 and reservations can be made by calling (202) 639-9830. I’ll be there, brushing up on my Sazerac skills, so please say hi!
To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to spend $10 on a six pack of craft beer, and a time to kick back with a cheap all-American brew. A time to savor the complexity of a well made drink, and a time to cool off with an ice cold blue collar type beer. Fortunately, Againn is facilitating the latter of these times with their 99 cent beer special. When you purchase one of Againn’s four happy hour appetizers, you get two Yueglings for less than a buck. Surely that’s worth coming off of your beer snob high horse for.
For this holiday weekend which proudly celebrates our American independence, it might be treasonous to suggest you head over to British gastro-pub AGAINN for your happy hour, but there are two words guaranteed to make me do a happy dance in the world of drinks – tinctures and tea. Add moonshine, and well, say no more.
Ace bartender JP Caceres showed me how they are serving up a Moonshine Iced Tea cocktail with inspiration coming from the past – traveling medicine shows where old wives’ wisdom in the form of specially crafted tinctures cured all ails. Your bartender will mix up the base – 1 oz of your liquor choice, 1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 oz simple syrup, and a highball glass is filled with crushed ice and tea. Here’s the fun part – you then get to choose from several different tea-based tinctures with delightful names (like Happy Tummy, Dawn Chorus, Easy Day) splashing a few drops into your drink to your own taste. The idea is to use some old-fashioned knowledge to self-medicate and experiment with different tastes depending on your mood. The results are lovely – flavors ranging from herbal, floral and vegetal with the alcohol just a side note to tea’s invigorating kick.
I like beer on it’s own just fine. I’d never bothered to try beer cocktails or anything of the sort, but I’ve been changing my mind lately. Beer is a great thing, but why not get a little creative with it?
That’s why I was excited when the staff at Againn invited me over to try their newest menu item, the beer float. It’s basically the same thing as a root beer float, just with the root beer replace by real beer. Againn offers two floats, one with stout flavored ice cream in Tetly’s Pale Ale, and the second with vanilla bean flavored ice cream in Guinness.
The ice creams are made in house by pastry Chef Genevieve So and are specifically designed to compliment the beers. Beverage director Caterina Abbruzetti told me that the floats are there to cater to the summer lunch crowd as a cool, refreshing meal in a glass.
I was particularly partial to Guinness float. The vanilla ice cream was an excellent compliment to the already lactic stout and really brought out the coffee notes in the beer. It was almost desert like. Againn’s beer floats are a different way to experience beer, and definitely something worth drinking this weekend. I think it’d be particularly nice in the sun on restaurant’s patio.
St. Patrick’s Day seems to fall at a good time of year—just after we’ve groggily “sprung forward” and just as we’ve been teased out of our winter hermit holes by the sweet promise of spring. Winter vacation seems a lifetime ago; Memorial Day beach treks couldn’t feel farther out of reach. Truth be told, we’re ready for some good craic.
This holiday always seems an ideal time to check in with Irish mates I haven’t properly caught up with since my last trip to Éire. I write friends based in happenin’ Dublin and off “busy” getting sunburned in fabulous places around the globe to wish them a happy Paddy’s Day. (Note: if you accidentally let slip “St. Patty’s Day,” prepare to be scolded for incorrectly feminizing the legendary saint!) This year I surveyed my friends’ March 17 plans, knowing that the night before would be the big night out thanks to a national holiday on St. Patrick’s Day. Over there March 17 seems a day, at least for my friends, to take it easy—catching up over pints and coffees, cycling into the country and, most importantly, avoiding the chaos of city centre. The downtown Dublin parade, it seems, can be saved for the kids and tourists.
So what then does March 17 (unfortunately not a holiday here) mean for Washingtonians? Perhaps the Obamas will dye the White House fountain green again (touch wood). And while the holiday will no doubt give venues an excuse to charge covers to droves of bar goers on a random Wednesday night, it will also give bar goers an excuse to spend a Wednesday night clinking glasses of green beer, downing Irish car bombs and flaunting real or feigned ancestry (“Kiss Me, I’m Irish” buttons, anyone?). It’s also a day when cultural traditions get a wee bit muddled here in the “melting pot” of America—Scottish and English customs become Irish; anything Celtic goes….
When I profiled Elli Benchimol at AGAINN a few weeks ago, she mentioned a barley wine dinner was in the works. It’s now set for Monday, February 22 at 7pm. Reservations are required at $75 per person, which will get you four courses paired to this storied ale. The food alone sounds pretty tempting – Shallow Poached Loch Duart Salmon, Braised Hereford Beef Cheeks, Lincolnshire Poacher Cheddar Cheese, and Gianduja Chocolate Tart. Um, yes to rich deliciousness on a chilly night.
But wait, barley wine = ale? Indeed, this is one of those confusing situations like when vegetables are really fruit. Barley wine, also sometimes known as old ale, originated in nineteenth century England and can reach an alcohol strength of 8 to 12%. So it can be as strong as wine, but because it’s made from grain instead of fruit, it’s really an ale.
But don’t worry, Jeff Wells from DOPS Distributors (DC’s beer guru) will be on hand that night to help explain the pairings and the history of barley wine. Call AGAINN for reservations at 202.639.9830.
We Love Drinks continues our series where we look behind the bar, profiling the many people – from mixologists to bartenders, sommeliers to publicans – who make your drinks experience happen.
Elli Benchimol is never without a wine key, maybe two. Sometimes three. This can cause problems with airport security. Or, it can save the day! Either way, she laughs it off. It’s a chilly afternoon, and she thoughtfully pours me some hot tea as we sit down to talk about her background and learn about the beverage program she manages at AGAINN, downtown’s new “British Isles Bistro.”
Fellow author and photographer Samer has come along and can’t stop salivating at the wall of scotch. But we’ll get to that soon! I had previously stumbled onto AGAINN one night not having a clue that they had a brilliant cocktail program, and was instantly smitten. The bar is beautifully lined with fresh ingredients, garnishes and brown bottles, a selection of bitters, exotic tinctures of vanilla rooibos.
“Some people have added the syrups to their fish and chips by accident,” Elli smiles.
But I’m sure they would never be made to feel intimidated about such a mistake here. It’s a friendly environment, with the affectionate camaraderie between Elli and her staff immediately obvious.
Maybe that’s part of the West Coast style. Elli is a transplant from the laid-back land, someone who (like our first profile Josh Volz) was profoundly influenced by the San Francisco cocktail and wine scene. She’s part of a tradition of culinary professionals who believe that bar and kitchen should go hand in hand, and that quality is worth the wait.
“In San Francisco I learned that waiting for ten minutes for a cocktail is the true test,” Elli says, getting ready to line up some of her favorites. Samer and I lean forward like eager students.
Here’s another feature where WeLoveDC authors Donna (greenie) and Katie (foodie) have paired up to tell you about local area restaurants that take on the challenge of being green. Donna explains the restaurant’s environmentally friendly efforts and Katie tells you if the food tastes any good. It’s a rough life, but someone has to do it, right?
Donna: I don’t want to go overboard about how much I liked AGAINN, but let’s just say that three days after my first visit, I dragged a friend from out of town over there to try AGAINN again. The restaurant’s said to be a modern twist on traditional British Isles pub cuisine, but that makes me think of greasy fish ‘n’ chips, not the savory ham and apple cider pie steaming under a delicate puff pastry crust that I had for dinner.
Katie: I haven’t exactly been subtle about my enthusiasm for DC’s newest gastropub, either. I love the space, the details are impeccable, the drinks, the food, everything. So when I visited and found out that Chef Wesley Morton had constructed a VERY local menu and put a ton of thought into his sourcing, it made me love AGAINN that much more.
Donna: Executive Chef Wesley Morton is from Louisiana, and he grew up on a farm surrounded by cows, figs, oranges, and all sorts of goodness. His family didn’t buy meat at the store; they raised their own food. He’s now continuing that tradition, using food that’s grown and processed locally and animals that are treated humanely. An example is the smoked country ham, cured in Allan Benton’s small family shop in Tennessee. You can order it as a charcuterie, or get a taste of its salty deliciousness atop the soft russet potato dumplings as they melt in your mouth. Continue reading →
You will not find a Washingtonian more grateful for the warm-ish weather that we’ve had this fall. I’m decidedly NOT a winter girl, and I’ve been known to curse coats and whine incessantly about the cold. While winter in DC is just something I must tolerate, sometimes I can assuage my pain with a really great bone-warming dish. I was lucky to run across a lot of those in November, and without really meaning to, my list of favorite dishes wound up being a list that could double-time as a ‘great winter dishes’ list as well.
So when you head out to spend your hard earned dollars on a meal, here are some dishes that are best bets for spending wisely. And to boot, they’ll even keep you warm. Continue reading →
A few years back, a loveably zany Irish friend of mine lugged tea bags with her from her Drogheda cupboards to the communal hostel kitchens of Buenos Aires, Rio, La Paz and Cusco. I’ll admit that I didn’t really get it. (“If only I had brown bread right now too,” she’d sigh dreamily, nearby mate drinkers looking on curiously as she downed cup after cup of her smuggled vice.) To say that Edel is a tea enthusiast is an understatement.
I didn’t understand her tea passion…that is, until I moved east to windswept Scotland, where a steaming cuppa is sometimes the only sure way to chase the chill from one’s bones. There I also learned to appreciate the soothing and intimate ritual of gathering with friends over a shared refreshment that requires time—time to steep, to cool, to sip, to savor, to merely pause and take it all in.
Coffee culture seems the more visible beverage addiction in most US cities (DC included), while the army of tea devotees tend to fly under the radar. But I suspect they’re out there. So where can a tea lover get a fix here? The options include spots pretentious and proper, casual and cozy, and those somewhere in between.
Honestly, the British Gastropub trend sounds so unappealing, doesn’t it? I’ve heard it called “awful” and “tired” recently, and I gotta be honest: eating something called Mushy Peas, Black Pudding or Bubble and Squeak is not first on my list when I think of a delicious night out. It doesn’t speak to me the way “rack of lamb with cranberry coulis and yukon gold potatoes” speaks to me. That is, until I actually tried Againn.
Over on New York Avenue (sort of tucked away on 11th, really) – Againn is homey while still being trendy (the details are flawless), British without being flavorless, and a great happy hour spot to boot. And ya’ll, the Bubble and Squeak? More like a delicious savory potato latke with some veggies thrown in, than the weird swamp-creature vision I had in my head. Even better? Wesley Morton, Executive Chef of AGAINN, and partners Mark Weiss and Bahar Makinaci put a strong focus on serving sustainable seafood, organic meats and sourcing from select local farms for produce.
Standouts in my mind? I loved the cornish fish soup, served with thinly sliced bread serving as croutons to spread with a saffron mayonnaise and dip in your soup. The pork belly with brussel sprouts and cracklin’ was also a winner. But the real superstar? Toffee Pudding. The bar is also a great place to be, the genius who designed it should win an award or something for creating my ideal bar situation. A few feet from the bar proper, they’ve placed a few small little stands to set your drink on, with hooks all around the stand leg. Hang up your purse, your coat, and set your scotch down for a minute. Grade A in my book, I hate hanging on to my purse and coat while trying to unwind from my day.
Againn is located at 1099 New York Ave., NW, a few blocks from Metro Center’s 11th street exit.
I’ll be honest with you, reader. I just didn’t feel like putting together foodie round-up today, but I didn’t want to leave you hanging. So instead, like a good food blogger, I decided to write about the flurry of restaurants expected to open this month. So on with you, we’ve got greek, latin-asian fusion, a gastropub, and beer drinker’s heaven coming atcha in October. Continue reading →