Chances are you look to the restaurant industry to tell you what to put on your plate, not what you ought to be wearing. After all, how interesting can another iteration of an apron be? But for managers and bartenders, the dress code gets more creative. In this new feature, we’re chatting with some of the stylish characters in the DC restaurant scene. This week, we talk to Greg Engert, Beer Director at Neighborhood Restaurant Group about what he’s wearing. Check out the edited interview after the jump.
Courtesy of Samer Farha
There’s a new dish you might see parading around Churchkey these days. Don’t worry if you don’t see it on the menu–we don’t need those where we’re going. Besides, you’ll see it coming down the bar from a mile away: a big platter of fried chicken and donuts.
The beer-focused bar’s fried chicken dinner splits a whole chicken in three different styles: thighs and drumsticks in a classic buttermilk fried fashion, chicken tenders fried with a jerk seasoning and “General Satan’s” crispy wings (that’s executive chef Kyle Bailey’s version of General Tso’s). The family-style platter also comes with homemade biscuits with honey butter, corn on the cob topped with a spicy mayo, sesame seeds, cilantro and panko bread crumbs, as well as panzanella with heirloom tomatoes and house-made burrata.
Rounding off your meal are four donuts from executive pastry chef, Tiffany MacIsaac. They’re fried brioche donuts filled with passion fruit curd and topped with a strawberry glaze and a homemade Nilla wafer crumbling or a filled with a goat’s milk cheesecake and topped with a Cajeta glaze and pistachio dusting.
That’s all for only $42, so go ahead and don’t feel bad about ordering that second beer.
The fried chicken special is available on Wednesday nights only in limited quantities.
There is nothing more wonderful to see than when creativity and mission intersect. Case in point: the Mobile Market. The Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture, a nonprofit founded by the partners and chefs of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, is dedicated to growing an equitable and sustainable food system in DC. The group has come up with an innovative solution to overcome the challenges of food access: use the food truck model. The Mobile market will serve “food desert” neighborhoods around the area with fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products and meat from Arcadia farms and other sustainable producers, at below market rates for those who need it most, bringing it to areas that do not have a bounty of fresh options.
A converted school bus, now bright green and adorned with art by local students, serves as a visual representation of everything the Mobile Market aims to do, as Michael Babin, owner of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group explained, “Our hope is that the Mobile Market will not only serve as a physical link between farmers and the areas that lack food access, but as a visual representation of the better food and nutrition movement.”
Beyond that, the converted school bus is a moving educational market on wheels, providing information and cooking demonstrations, one-on-one engagement opportunities with the local community, nutritional information and recipes, and resources for how to get fresh, local produce elsewhere in the District. The moving Market is already up and running and will continue through October, with scheduled visits to a senior wellness center, low-income housing site, metro stop, health care provider, and city park and during the school year will also visit schools in DC.
The Mobile Market, the first of its kind in the city, is pioneering change, one stop at a time…
Move over, quinoa. Sayonara, root vegetables of winter. This bright salad recipe from chef Tony Chittum combines the sweet flavors of apples and dates, with the savory notes from blue cheese, farro, walnuts and brussels sprouts. It’s a simple and straight forward recipe, but elegant and filling. Click through for the full recipe.
Some people seek out their careers, and others have careers that seek out them. The latter was the case for executive chef of Vermilion, Tony Chittum, when he started working in a Mexican restaurant at 14 years old, just washing dishes. “It was easy to get a job in a restaurant then, and I liked it because of the energy,” he says. “Eventually I got sick of dishes and learned how to cook. I was 17 when I met the first real chef I worked for and realized that I could make a career out of this.”
It was then that Chittum “learned why and how to make things,” he says, describing the first time he learned how to make a roux. The Maryland native later moved out to San Francisco, where he worked for and learned from the “classically trained and intense” chef, Don Link. Chittum says that working for a chef of that caliber was a “big eye opener” and he began to learn what it would take to make it as a chef. Fast forward to today, and Chittum can honestly say he can’t see himself doing anything else.
Locavores rejoice: Red Apron Butchery has been awarded a 2012 Good Food Award in the charcuterie category. Red Apron, a creation of Neighborhood Restaurant Group, was the DC area’s only 2012 finalist and winner out of approximately 1,000 submissions.
The Good Food Awards, started two years ago, honor “tasty, authentic, and responsible” foods in eight different categories: beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, pickles, preserves and spirits. Winners of Good Food Awards must adhere to certain standards, including no usage of artificial ingredients and no usage of synthetic fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or GMO foods. The Good Food Awards honor artisans from across the country who focus on honoring traditions and cultures through food, as well as local ingredients and sustainable practices.
Chef Nathan Anda accepted the award for his crème de cochon, a whipped lardo made from Ossabaw-Red Wattle crossbreed (that’s a type of hog, for you laymen) with garlic, coarse black pepper, rosemary and sel gris. Anda and Red Apron’s crème de cochon beat out 11 other butcheries who competed in the category.
While you can find Red Apron’s cuts of meat and other products at various farmer’s markets or at Planet Wine Shop in Alexandria, the butchery is planning on opening a location in downtown DC later this year.
Ah, Virginia–home to part of the Blue Ridge mountains, the Virginia ham, and of course, the land for lovers. So to celebrate the greatness of Old Dominion, Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture and Woodlawn, a National Trust Historic Site, are hosting the second annual “The Vices That Made Virginia.”
From 4 to 8 PM on November 5th, you can indulge in bourbon, oysters on the half shell, cigar rolling, as well as other “vices” from the state. In addition to specialty drinks from local distilleries, brewers and winemakers, chefs Nathan Anda, Kyle Bailey, Bertrand Chemel, Tiffany MacIsaac, Steve Mannino and Rob Weland will be serving up a scrumptious autumn spread. Dishes include local lamb, corn spoon bread with leeks and cheddar, spiced apple-oatmeal crumble and much more. Some of the local purveyors showcasing their ingredients in the chefs’ dishes include New Frontier Farms, Kilmer’s Farm & Orchard, Meadow Creek Dairy and Rappahannock Oysters.
Get ready to get your vices on at the farm next weekend, fellow Washingtonians. Tickets are $125 per person and all proceeds from the evening go to support Arcadia and Woodlawn.
There’s a new bakery on the block in Ballston. Buzz Bakery is opening its second location today, and is offering samples of baked goods and MadCap Coffee at the new location.
While some of the offerings will be the same, there are several noteworthy changes and additions at the new location. For starters, there will be new breakfast pop-tarts, waffles, quiches, house-made ice creams and popsicles. Plus, you’ll be able to satisfy your sweet tooth at home with Buzz’s take-and-bake options of frozen cookies, scones, as well as sausage and cheese biscuits, that you can bake at home. Additionally, the bakery has a new and exclusive coffee supplier, MadCap Coffee, a small company based out of Michigan.
It’s rare to find one person who is doing exactly what they want in life, let alone two. But chefs Kyle Bailey and Tiffany MacIsaac are doing just that: cooking food they love in a restaurant geared towards their tastes and styles. They’re all about serving homemade food, no pretensions and you can tell neither one of them is the type to cut corners in the kitchen.
The married pair came to DC in 2009 after working at the now closed, Allen & Delancey in New York City. Michael Babin, one of the co-owners of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, approached Bailey about coming to work at Birch & Barley. “He said he wanted to open a beer restaurant, and he was like, ‘I hope that’s not going to be a problem for you.’ Are you kidding? That’s like my dream,” says Bailey. “It wasn’t about dumping Miller Lite on fish. I wanted to cook my food and prepare dishes with awesome beers. I take the long way home every time. It’s about quality and cooking from scratch.”
The paper is still up at Rustico in Ballston when I arrive just a few minutes early for the evening’s events. The block of Wilson Boulevard is mostly in transition and Rustico sits in the center of the restaurant cocoons, looking like it will be first to arrive. Across the plaza is the next NRG project, the second location of Buzz Bakery, and next door to Rustico is an early-in-build-out Sweetgreen slated for the end of the year. Our guide for the evening opens up the side door, and a few workers follow her out, showing that this is still a restaurant in the final phases of being constructed.
The entryway floor is covered in paper to protect the surface from the boots and construction dust, and some of the interior work is in progress, including a beautiful beer bottle and mirror mosaic. A fireplace sits dormant on a night that would otherwise call for it. Shepherded past the construction and into the bar, beer sommelier par none Greg Engert is waiting for us, and hands me a small glass of a California Imperial IPA that has notes of just about every possible hop and floral. While Greg will continue his focus on Church Key, it’s impossible to separate the man from his first home, at Alexandria’s Rustico, and he’s been integrally involved in training the Arlington staff. Neighborhood Restaurant Group believes strongly that passionate people make the best employees, and have continued that trend forward in the new Rustico. Andy Carlson will be helming the bar for Rustico Ballston, which will feature 400 bottled beers, 40 taps and 3 cask-conditioned ales, making it a formidable presence in DC’s already expansive beer scene. Last night’s dinner was certainly a festival of great beer paired with great food that left me thinking that we’re in for a real treat.
So I’ve been trying to cut back on my meat intake. Well, that is, until I met Nate Anda of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s Red Apron Butchery. Anda shattered my dreams of a meat-free existence and replaced them with ridiculously delicious beef jerky and charcuterie. Every cured meat I tried from his line made me love pork. I was able to whip up pizzas, salads, cheese and breads.
I met Anda at the Dupont Circle Farmer’s market, and he loaded me up with recommendations, pointing out stalls with his favorite product pairings. I rushed home to try them and haven’t looked back since. His products are impeccable, and I couldn’t wait to talk to Anda about why meat, why DC and what he loved about them both.
Katie: How long have you lived in the DC area?
Nathan: Since January 2002
What is the best thing about DC, in your opinion?
Its a smaller city than New York and LA. It’s easy to get around, and I almost always run into somebody I know when I’m not planning on it (that can be good and bad I guess), and DC gets great concerts!
What would you change about DC if you could?
I can’t stand the traffic.
What inspired you to create Red Apron?
I have always had an appreciation for using local farmers and getting in the whole animal and finding ways to utilize everything. Michael Babin (owner of Neighborhood Restaurant Group) and I toyed with the idea of a butcher shop about 5 years ago and once EatBar opened, the menu was really meat/charcuterie based; that’s when the real research and development took place. After traveling to Italy a couple years back and seeing the salumerias and macelerias, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Continue reading
The Neighborhood Restaurant Group (who brought you Rustico, Evening Star, Eat Bar, etc.) has announced the opening of a new concept, the Columbia Firehouse in Old Town. With two different restaurant experiences, and two bars, the Firehouse will be quite the addition to the Alexandria dining scene.
The 80-seat upstairs dining room will serve as a classic chophouse with most of the restaurant’s meats and all of its charcuterie selected, butchered and prepared by Red Apron. The 120-seat dining room downstairs will offer a casual menu with a focus on modern American comfort food, small plates and sandwiches, such as dry-rubbed & smoked chicken wings with buttermilk blue & firehouse bbq sauces, Maryland crab cake with jicama slaw and Dijon aioli, and the firehouse burger.
Columbia Firehouse will also be home to two bars. The main bar, located on the ground floor of the restaurant, will specialize in pure, authentic versions of classic cocktails including Rickey’s, Fizzes, Sazeracs and more. he second floor bar and adjoining lounge will be open for special events, and will allow cocktail enthusiasts to sample a rotating menu of creative concoctions, as well as aperitifs and after-dinner drinks. I’m sure I’ll have much more information for you when it opens.