Dates. Those awkward, exciting, beautiful things we all go on at some point. I am by no means an expert in this field- quite far from it- and I don’t have a magical solution for how to make your next date the best you ever had, so unfortunately you won’t be finding the next We Love DC dating service here (sigh). The inspiration for this post really came from a conversation with a friend of mine the other day. He asked me where he should take a girl out, wanting to strike the right balance between serious young professional, trendy and casual. I realized many of us have gone through this mental exercise before. The exhausting over-planning and over- analyzing we do: choosing the right spot for that first interaction (or second or third), focusing on every detail from time, to dress code, to the big goodbye, mulling over tiny logistics as a method of defense to shift our thoughts away from the weirdness that could ensue. But enough of that.
I think a shared meal is the perfect way to break the ice, a way to bond over something simple that brings anyone, no matter what level of culinary expertise you may have, together. We all share stories around a dinner table, have memories of a favorite meal, and can reveal oneself through a dish. So for me, sharing a meal is a perfect way of getting to know someone, whether it be a sit down dinner or a casual picnic. I decided to write some recommendations for where you can break bread and the ice along the way, in case you need to outsource thinking on the next time your big date is lined up. I polled some of the We Love DC crew for their suggestions as well, as not all of us are food focused daters.
Outstanding in the Field, a traveling culinary adventure that brings attention to local farmers and food artisans in the most beautiful settings a diner could ask for, is coming to us. This year, Outstanding in the Field will be headed to Arcadia Farm at Woodlawn, Alexandria (which also just happened to once be a part of George Washington’s farms at Mount Vernon). Guest chefs Kyle Bailey and Tiffany MacIsaac of Birch & Barley (and other delicious wonders) will be knocking out a multi-course beer dinner in this historical setting. The duo knocked it out of the park at last year’s event and are sure to impress us even more this year, especially with all the James Beard nominations under their belts.
Tickets for the $220.00 beer dinner are already on sale. The event will be held at 3:00pm on Sunday, September 30, 2012 at the Arcadia Farm at Woodlawn, Alexandria, VA.
*A portion of the proceeds from this event will be donated to Arcadia Farms.
Last week, Birch & Barley hosted their first-ever beer and whiskey tasting. At the helm was the inimitable Greg Engert to guide the evening’s attendees through three different beers and three different whiskies, one of each presented on its own, and then two of each paired together.
While I’ve had several meals at Birch & Barley and have spent too much time upstairs at ChurchKey, I had not yet attended one of Birch & Barley’s tastings or beer dinners so I wasn’t sure what to expect—in its format, presentation, guidance, sociability—but based on my past experiences with the brother-sister venues and the heavy promotion the tasting received, I figured it would be worthwhile. By the conclusion of the event, it had certainly met expectations—I left better educated, with a few new acquaintances, and with a pleasant buzz.
I’m practically drooling at the thought of this pasta dish. Had I been dining in the privacy of my own home, I would have picked up the bowl and proceeded to slurp down the sauce that was on it. And it was heartwarming to see Kyle and Tiffany make this dish together, each executing the part of the dish that they knew best.
Below you’ll find the recipe for homemade ricotta cavatelli with slow-roasted pork, broccoli rabe and pine nuts. Before you go running for the hills, screaming, “Make pasta from scratch?! I caaaan’t!” let me assure you that it’s really easy, will only take about 15 minutes, and will taste far better than the pre-packaged, chemical-laden crap at your local grocery store. I have faith in you, dear reader. And if you’re here, you’re probably not the type of person looking up Rachael Ray recipes for burgers with hotdog bits in them (yes, folks, that happened). Put in a little effort, and you will be rewarded with a savory, memorably delicious meal.
courtesy of ‘Steve Snodgrass’
I learned a lot about myself this month. I learned that white anchovies are the way to my heart if maybe not the best way to a second date. I finally, officially learned that there is a reason I’m not stick thin — because fatty food tastes good. I learned I like whiskey more than I thought (sorry parents!). And I learned that eating at a Waffle House and a Hooters in the same day does not spring me in to spontaneous white trashedness. I also ate a whole lot this month, so it was pretty tough to narrow down everything I loved. As a result, you’ll notice the honorable mention category down at the bottom for those few dishes that came in a close second in the race to the top.
I usually use this intro text in Eat Like Me to pontificate ($10 word! I win!) on what part of dining out in DC I’ve been thinking most about recently. This month I’ve been thinking more about styles of restaurants.
I would be the wrong person to be food editor if I didn’t say that I love every kind of restaurant, and have an affection for most styles of restaurants. I can get behind a chinatown hole in the wall, and love a simple stainless steel tea kettle just as much as I can get behind a Georgetown patio with fire pits and fancy cocktails. I’ve been mostly thinking about what draws me in and makes me love a place more than another.
I think it’s in the details. (For me, most things are in the details.) I think about the places that I love eternally – Againn, Et Voila!, Westend Bistro, and have been trying to figure out what strings them together, aside from the obvious good food. At Againn, aside from the seasonal, thoughtful food, I love the details of the restaurant – the tiles that line the walls are the same tiles used in the London Underground. The fox and hound door knockers on the bathroom are something I make sure to point out to anyone who goes to Againn with me. And the details bring me back to Et Voila!, too. They serve coffee with steamed milk, and wrap fries in newsprint. The skylight adds sunlight and charm. Westend Bistro’s pass lets me take a look into the belly of the operation, and makes me appreciate the work that goes into the food. I’m starting to believe it’s the little things that bring me back to a place time and time again. It’s the little things that make me answer my most hated question of “What is your favorite restaurant” with a different answer each time.
This month the details were where it’s at. Birch and Barley’s pastries, an addition of wasabi to mashed potatoes at Zentan, and the perfect whipped frosting on a Georgetown Cupcake. Lovely, subtle details are available at every type of restaurant, but here are the best of the best of April. Continue reading →
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.
Greg Engert views the world through the bottom of a beer glass. This is not a statement on his sobriety, but rather the lens through which he has chosen to focus his profession and personal interest. Greg is the beer director for the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, owners of Rustico and the new, wildly popular ChurchKey and Birch and Barley restaurants near Thomas Circle. He researches beers, meets with brewers, manages his stock of beverages, and has the final say on anything beer related at Neighborhood restaurants. Sounds like a dream job, right? Well, I’m not going to lie. It is a dream job, but that doesn’t make it easy, and Greg certainly isn’t one to rest on the laurels of his title.
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 →