Food and Drink, We Love Drinks

Friday Happy Hour: Ivy and Coney

Just as that bitter taste lingers in your mouth for what feels like forever, malört has managed to linger in the DC drinks scene since it broke out in late last December. This is due in no small part to the massive hype it’s been generating, getting continuous press and even a bar dedicated to it.

The malört craze started with Boundary Road, which was the first time I saw malört on a DC menu, and Bar Pilar who featured Malört Bombs on their Anti-Valentine’s Day Menu. But the real stuff, Jeppson’s Malört, as of now, is only behind one bar in the city, Ivy and Coney.

Ivy and Coney is DC’s shrine to this bitter Chicago spirit. Opened in late December, Ivy and Coney has been making waves for it’s no frills, divey neighborhood bar take on midwest taverns. Come to drink the inexpensive beers, eat cracker jacks and the Chicago-style hot dogs and coneys. And, of course, shoot malört. This isn’t a place to get fancy, it’s a place to have an unpretentious beer and a snack after work, and see your friends’ malört face. Continue reading

Food and Drink, The Daily Feed, The Features, We Love Drinks

Friday Happy Hour: Tacos and Tequila at El Rey

I’m done with this cold, rainy nonsense. It’s time for spring, people! I want to see more balmy temps, cool drinks, sundresses, and cherry blossoms. But most of all, I want tequila and tacos because nothing quite puts me in the spirit of warm weather quite like drinking tequila and eating tacos under the sun. So I’m sure you can imagine my feelings towards the opening of El Rey last week, Shaw’s new U Street tacqueria/beer garden. It went sort of like this (only replace “bacon and eggs” with “tequila and tacos”).

I walked into El Rey’s soft opening, having done shameful little to no homework, with a very short check list. First order of business: lots of tequila. Yeah they got that. Second: tacos. I think so. Lastly, not cold. It might have been rainy and nasty all week, but under those heat lamps you could have fooled me. Close my eyes and I’m back to undergrad, eating tacos off a truck and lounging on the sunny quad. Only this time there’s tequila. Continue reading

Food and Drink, The Features, We Love Drinks

Friday Happy Hour: Proper Pints at Right Proper Brewing Co.

This is one of my favorite places to open since I’ve settled in DC. And that’s saying a lot, since DC saw a ton of new spots open in the later half of 2013, most of which are in a one block radius of Right Proper. I first came here on a cold, snowy night for a quick pint before I moved on to my next stop, but ended up spending the rest of the night nerding out over the food and beer menu. Maybe it was the snow or the wind that, somehow, always blew right into my face no matter which direction I headed that made me stay the night, or maybe it was the great wintery beer menu–porters, pale ales, a wee heavy (whatever that is, aside from delicious)–but I’ve clocked a lot of hours on those bar stools since then. Continue reading

Food and Drink, We Love Drinks

Friday Happy Hour: Bistro Bohem

I have been hooked on Bistro Bohem since the I first went there for a job interview (for this job actually). I love everything about the place, It’s a bar and a restaurant and a cafe and a late night spot and a brunch spot and a pretty-much-whatever-time-of-day-spot all in one. They have good, cheap, hearty food, a great tea selection, everyone I’ve met on staff is really, really friendly, and some of the drinks I’ve never even heard of before. Bavorak, Beton (Czech for concrete)? Sure! But the drink that first caught my eye was the Becherovka Old Fashioned.

I have a bit of a love affair with amaro-based Old Fashioneds; Campari-gin, Fernet-bourbon, sometimes I just want to sip something strong and bitter. No surprise then that I immediately noticed Bistro Bohem’s Becherovka Old Fashioned. It’s a mix of Becherovka, Bols oude genever, and Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, all muddled with a lemon (bye bye, winter weather blues). Don’t worry If you’ve never tried Becherovka. It’s a rather uncommon ingredient in cocktails because not many people know what the heck it is. Actually, no one does – the recipe for this spirit is a closely guarded secret. Continue reading

Food and Drink, The Features, We Love Drinks

Drinks Preview: Mockingbird Hill

Derek Brown was describing the concept behind Mockingbird Hill one lazy, sherry-soaked afternoon. The name came from a line in Spanish Bombs, by The Clash (“The Only Band That Matters”) and the motif was inspired by the casual wine bars of Spain. It would feature some 54 sherries selected by his wife (and famous sherry proponent) Chantal Tseng, who was leaving Tabard Inn to work with him running the bar.

“So basically,” I said, “it’s a love letter to your wife.”

Opening tonight, their new bar is a love letter to a lot of things. To sherry and time spent in Spain. To family and friends. To both self-professed “sherry addicts” and to those who don’t know anything about sherry but are happy to learn. Located on 7th Street NW in a section of Shaw that’s primed to become one of the most exciting areas in the city, Mockingbird Hill feels like a new chapter in bar life for DC. It’s a casual spot to sip and learn, eat ham, listen to punk rock, and talk. It’s, dare I say, adult, in a very sexy way. I’m sure it’ll be packed for a bit, as new places always are in our city starved for more density, but eventually it’ll settle into that perfect third space bar. Continue reading

Fashionable DC, The District, The Features

Fashionable DC: MidCity

Photo courtesy of Kelly Collis Fredrick

I recently attended two events held in what I knew as the 14th and U Streets corridor – the Dog Days of Summer in August and about a month later, Fashion’s Night Out. The vibe of these events, the display of unique items from both clothing and home décor boutiques, made these memorable shopping excursions.

Who was organizing these popular events? I traced it back to the MidCity Business Association (BA). MidCity BA represents businesses on the commercial corridors that stretch down 14th Street from Florida Avenue to Thomas Circle and along U from 9th to 17th as well as several side streets way beyond the 14th and U district. Many don’t know that MidCity is actually a historical term for this collection of neighborhoods dating decades back.

Over the past few weeks, I spent time with a few of the boutique owners, as well as Natalie Avery from the MidCity BA, to better understand the neighborhood and community (and was able to sneak in some shopping too!).  As a life long Washingtonian, it was a great experience to learn about the rich history of this neighborhood and the strong sense of community that still exists there today.

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Adventures, Essential DC, Fun & Games, Special Events, The Daily Feed, The District

Big Kids Block Party was EPIC

Photo courtesy of
‘Kids in the Air’
courtesy of ‘M.V. Jantzen’

According to the Q Street Neighborhood Association, the Big Kids Block Party was a rip-roaring, rocking and uber-successful event.

Here are some stats:
-1,048 people in attendance
-26 tapped kegs
-200 Ben’s half-smokes eaten
-585 other hot dogs devoured
-500 oz Mr. Yogato fro-yo grobbled
-100 Julia’s Empanadas consumed
-100 Rice Krispie Treats inhaled
-Countless pounds of popcorn, cotton candy, regular candy, chips, etc. scoffed up
-50 butchered (carved) pumpkins

Most importantly the block party raised $20,151.32, **More than DOUBLED the original goal**, all of which will go to four deserving non-profits.

For those of you who couldn’t make it, they’ll be throwing the 2nd Annual Big Kids Block Party in 2010, after a much deserved recovery.

The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Shaw

Photo courtesy of
‘so d.c.’
courtesy of ‘NCinDC’

Welcome to the latest edition of Where We Live.  This week we’ll be covering a DC neighborhood with a storied history– Shaw!  Shaw and the surrounding neighborhoods of Eckington and Bloomingdale have seen a great deal of reinvestment over the last decade, and many people are discovering the charm and history in this beautiful urban neighborhood.

History: Now this is a neighborhood with a great history.  Shaw was named after Civil War Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, and originally started as a freed slave encampment just outside the original Washington City.  The neighborhood thrived in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as a center of black culture.  Howard University opened in the area in 1866.  The area was the hotbed of jazz in the 1920s and 1930s, with its most famous resident Duke Ellington. In the 1960s, the area was hit hard by the riots, and hit again in the 1990s by the crack epidemic.  But new residents started moving in in the 1990s, drawn by its central location and reasonable housing prices, and the area began to redevelop.  Today, Shaw is one of the District’s most-loved neighborhoods, with beautiful housing, a great location, and civically-engaged residents.

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Food and Drink, We Love Food

We Love Food: Vegetate

Photo courtesy of
‘Vegetate Outside’
courtesy of ‘needlessspaces’

I have a co-worker and friend named Heather. Heather is a vegetarian. She’s one of those odd vegetarians, though, that doesn’t really eat a bunch of vegetables. She likes them just fine, and she’ll eat them if you cook them for her, or bring them to her, but she doesn’t seek out vegetables the way a stereotypical vegetarian would. In fact, she tends to eat a lot of mac and cheese, and mozzarella sticks are her favorite bar nosh. Fried food is good food for Heather, especially when it involves cheese. So when I told her about Vegetate, the vegetarian restaurant in Historic Shaw, and my experience there, she said “now that’s the restaurant for me!” – and it totally is. Here is why. Continue reading

Food and Drink, Night Life, The Features, We Love Drinks

We Love Drinks: Ben’s Next Door

Citrus District, Ben's Next Door

"Citrus District, Ben's Next Door" by Jenn Larsen, on Flickr

Catching up with friends who’ve been away from DC for a while is always interesting. You want to take them someplace that’s different, that shows the changes of the city over the past five years or more, but also you require a vibe which allows you to actually hear each other. I had this challenge recently with a friend who’d returned to DC from living in London, so naturally I wasn’t going to kill myself trying to impress her, I just wanted to find a place that simply said “Welcome Back to Washington.”

We found it at the bar at Ben’s Next Door. What could be more Washingtonian than the new bar and restaurant opened by the Ali family of Ben’s Chili Bowl fame? I mean, have you seen the crazy lines of tourists outside Ben’s lately? I had to show her how the legend of U Street continues to grow. 

Funnily enough, we made it just before the news of chef Rock Harper’s departure. I’m really glad we both had the instant instinct to stick to the bar. It’s a looooong one (53 feet, to be exact), which always makes me a bit nervous about service, but there was no need to worry. We spent several hours catching up under the careful eye of bartender Anthony, who made sure we never wanted for anything. 

It was a real locals crowd that night, U Street denizens cheering on the Caps against the Pens, but it never got too loud and there was a happy buzz to the place. Continue reading

Food and Drink, Night Life, We Love Drinks

We Love Drinks: Vinoteca

Malbec at Vinoteca

"Malbec at Vinoteca" by Jenn Larsen, on Flickr

So, here’s my question: the wine bar proliferation over the past few years – fad or fabulous? I mean, with all these places popping up everywhere, are people actually learning about wine? Becoming educated oenophiles? Or still just stabbing nervous fingers in an overwhelming list and hoping like mad they pronounce “viognier” correctly?

Seriously, dear reader, hasn’t it come down to one thing and one thing alone – the size of the charcuterie plate? Isn’t it all about the meat and cheese?

Well, maybe not. In a city like DC there really are a lot of wine connoisseurs who would be far more qualified to talk about this trend than me. I’m just lucky to have two neighborhood wine bars – Cork and Vinoteca – where I can hang out and slowly pick up some idea of what I like. Of those two, I think Vinoteca has evolved the most. It didn’t spring out of the gate fully formed as a Frommer’s pick. There were some hiccups along the way since its opening in fall of 2007. But after several recent sojourns with good service giving spot-on wine recommendations, not to mention one of the best charcuterie plates in the city, I’ve really warmed up to Vinoteca as a favorite drinks spot.

And maybe not just for the sinful duck prosciutto… or the fact that they have tasty venison, lamb, and bison sliders… though that certainly helps! 

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Food and Drink, Night Life, We Love Drinks

We Love Drinks: The Gibson

"Etouffer un Perroquet" cocktail at The Gibson

"Etouffer un Perroquet cocktail at The Gibson" by Jenn Larsen on Flickr

On a dreary rain-soaked night in the heart of U Street, I was buzzed into The Gibson. Well, as befits a speakeasy or “secret bar,” first I was let into a ratty little foyer where my reservation and legality were confirmed with brisk efficiency by a tweedy doorman. Then he smiled broadly.

“Welcome to The Gibson,” he said, opening the inner door and ushering me into a jewel-box of a bar.

Deep blue walls, mirrored panels set off by ebony wood, red velvet banquettes, and really funky ceiling fixtures are highlights of the interior. Yet the overall effect is simple, with room for maybe no more than fifty people all together, at the long bar or side booths or tables in a back room. Reservations are highly encouraged – if there isn’t space, you can’t stand around at the bar and there won’t be a line at the door. 

As far as speakeasies go, The Gibson isn’t really that difficult to find, but it does want to maintain a degree of mystery. I’m fine with that, as it encourages a quiet, romantic (dare I say adult?) evening in the company of people who love cocktails with a passion unrivaled.

The cocktail menu at The Gibson, designed by ace mixologist Derek Brown, is neatly divided by main liquor element and features a mix of imaginative drinks and variations on the classics. Or order your usual cocktail from the bar and see how they put their own twist on it.

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Food and Drink, Night Life, We Love Food

We Love Food: 1905

Dining Room at 1905

The stretch of 9th from U Street to the Convention Center makes for an interesting walk. It’s a very exciting time to live close by, with development evolving in a truly organic way. From the Little Ethiopia of Etete, Chez Hareg, Habesha Market and Queen of Sheba, to glorious grimy dive DC9, past the beautiful boys at BeBar, vegetarian haven Vegetate, on down to the weirdness of the Convention Center’s cold empty glass. All along are pockets of blight, boarded up houses mostly owned by Shiloh Baptist Church.

On this fascinating street has dropped 1905, a small second floor bistro. The vibe is rather like visiting a quirky friend’s dinner party, whose decorating style is rustic opulence on a budget. On weekdays it’s a relaxing spot for a quiet candlelit meal or drinks at the cosy bar. On weekends the communal table ramps up and it’s far livelier, with live jazz on Thursdays at 10pm. Whichever you prefer, the staff is committed to making sure everyone has a good experience and keeps a friendly atmosphere.

The menu features kicked-up bistro and comfort food with a French twist. Like the space, it’s small, and I wonder if it will change seasonally. The standout for me is the “Grilled Merquez with Polenta and Piquillo Peppers.” I’ve had it twice and it will be hard not to have every time. Having comforting polenta and spicy lamb sausage together – well, it’s like kissing a shy boy and finding out he is a bad boy. Seriously, that’s my metaphor and I’m sticking to it. Continue reading