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.
There’s something about the combination of historic grand hotels and cocktail culture that absolutely enchants me. Judging from the crowd waiting to get into the seminar on great hotel cocktails last night at Tabard Inn, I’m not alone. Hosted by Philip Greene of the Museum of the American Cocktail, Better Drinking‘s Derek Brown, and Tabard’s own Chantal Tseng, it was a fascinating evening both informative and funny on the phenomenon of the American hotel cocktail.
The three witty hosts mixed up drinks and dispensed history, from the Prohibition days of revolving bars and secret staircases, to the fabled round table of the Algonquin, to Hawaii’s pink palaces on the sea. We even got to shake up our own Ramos Gin Fizzes (the two minutes of vigorous shaking resulting in the beautiful meringue top of this delicate drink? well worth the effort) while hearing about shady Huey Long bringing that glorious New Orleans cocktail to New York City as a PR stunt. It worked. Continue reading →
If you’re like me (and half the city, it seems) you may be struggling with a hacking cough caught just in time for the winter blues. It almost prevented me from attending the Hot Drinks event last night at Tabard Inn, but I rallied to see what Chantal Tseng and Adam Bernbach came up with to showcase warming cocktails. Three rounds of soothing hot liquid later and I felt much, much better. My camera, on the other hand, has met its maker, so forgive the foggy photos! But it was just the night to lift my battered spirits and I definitely recommend future events.
In the beautiful private room upstairs at Tabard with its preppily colored walls of pink and green, guests enjoyed two courses by chef Paul Pelt including perfectly prepared duck breast, ending the evening with pastry chef Huw Griffiths’ famous doughnuts. Though the food was delicious, it was the drinks that I needed! So, fellow sufferers of the winter cold blues, I give you Adam and Chantal’s remedies. I guarantee they will cure you (at least temporarily). Let’s start with Adam’s Genever Punch, whose amazing ginger and lemon scent led me up the stairs. Continue reading →
There are warm winter drinks, and then there are hot drinks. As in flaming hot! Next Tuesday’s tasting at Tabard Inn will feature one I recently tried in New Orleans, Cafe Brulot, a combination of coffee, brandy and spices. Chantal Tseng will demonstrate how to prepare it in the classic style, as the brandy is set on fire while cascading down a long spiraling orange peel (“Wish me luck!” she says). Though the pyrotechnics are a lot of fun, they aren’t just for show – the flaming preparation gives the drink a spicy hot citrus taste. There’s a distinct thick richness that comes from the alchemy as the flaming liquid is poured down the orange peel repeatedly. I loved it in New Orleans and can’t wait to warm up with it again.
There’s lots more to the evening, with Adam Bernbach of Proof and Estadio joining Chantal to focus on other hot drinks branching out from the classics. Talented Tabard chef Paul Pelt will provide pairings for the winter warmers with three tasting-size courses, ending with dessert by Huw Griffiths. All for $50 inclusive, from 7pm-9pm on January 25. To RSVP, email email@example.com.
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 →
Try your hand at mixing up Gina’s “Beetiful Bubbles” with, yes, beet syrup, or Alex’s “That Cucumber Drink” muddling cucumber and mint, or my personal long-term favorite, Chantal’s “Tabard Cocktail” combining sherry and tequila. Fantastic.
The best part about DC being featured in Imbibe this month? The tone is congratulatory, not condescending in that way we sometimes see other national publications yap about DC’s food/drink offerings (Grey Lady, I am looking at you). I love it when our local talent gets recognized!
There are two types of people in D.C.: those who go to Tabard Inn every chance they get, and those that have never been. I have a friend that even uses it as his go-to first date location. And though I like to knock his dating style at any possible point, he really is on to something with this one. It’s casual yet classy, and has that hidden gem feel. Boys, take note. It’s like giving a girl a puppy – she literally won’t be able to resist you.
And calling it a hidden gem is really the best way to describe this particular restaurant. It’s technically located just off Dupont Circle, but isn’t exactly on a high traffic street. And to get to the restaurant you have to wander through the lobby of the hotel, which has a distinct bed and breakfast in rural Maine feel to it. It doesn’t exactly scream high class restaurant. And the restaurant isn’t exactly clearly marked – once through the lobby you hang a left at the stairs, walk through the lounge and head to the hostess podium just outside the bar. She will lead you through the bar and then all the sudden the dining room opens up and it’s like being in some classy lady’s very large kitchen full of some very fun friends.
Chantal Tseng at Tabard Inn. Photo courtesy Chantal Tseng/Tabard Inn.
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.
It’s no secret that one of my favorite bars in the city is Tabard Inn. The creaky lounge – a Victorian Medievalist’s fantasy, with its eccentric patrons circling the fireplace – seems somehow out of time and place, a bit dreamy really. Thankfully its mixologist’s first reaction to the bar’s collection of quirky old ingredients wasn’t to throw them all away, but to find a way to incorporate and celebrate them. It makes perfect sense.
Because Chantal Tseng sees stories everywhere. Stories for cocktails, that is.
As she describes for me her foray into the great old stock of the hotel, I have a vision of her browsing through dusty bottles in search of new worlds to uncover – like some cocktail archeologist. “Wait, what’s that? Don’t get rid of it, that could be fun to play with…” Her enthusiasm pulls me along, for mixing drinks is obviously Chantal’s love, an artistic outlet fueled by the history behind a drink and the stories it weaves afterwards.
Take the tale she spins for Odette’s Curse. It begins with her standing in front of a painting of a man ice-skating. “In a silly pose,” she says, “like a dandy on ice.” Continue reading →
They may get the clientele a little wrong (“policy wonks”? come on, that’s just lazy, there’s more to it than that) but they get the atmosphere right. And it’s fantastic to see one of my favorite places get well-deserved props.
Later today I’m continuing the love with a profile of Tabard’s mixologist Chantal Tseng. No better time to relax in that well-worn lounge in front of the fire than in this neverending winter…
Stormy weather for the weekend. Sigh. With all the gloominess looming, I think I’ll tuck myself away in a corner at Tabard Inn and indulge in some serious wine. Not only do I adore this quirky inn but they also happen to have one of my favorite wines by the glass – Bruno Porro Dolcetto di Dogliani.
Whenever I order this rich dense red, my friends roll their eyes. “You and your funky wine!” they laugh, wrinkling their noses. “It’s not funky, it’s earthy!” I protest back. Semantics. A smattering of plums and cherries? Maybe some coffee, chocolate? A log of mushrooms, damp from the forest floor? See, it’s this last scent that really drives me crazy and keeps me ordering it again and again. It’s like when you used to jump into a pile of leaves as a kid, you didn’t care that it was wet and maybe a little moldy, it was fun! The winery is in Piedmont near Alba, and that’s where my grandfather’s family is from, so maybe my love of earthy wines is in the blood.
Tabard Inn has a very sweet framed letter from Bruno Porro thanking them for importing their dolcetto (look for it in the restroom). I feel like thanking him myself for this red velvet delight. I’ll just wrap myself up in a glass and nap before the fireplace.
When I inaugurated the We Love Drinks feature back in September 2008, I really didn’t give it much thought to start with, honestly. We founding writers were tossing around feature ideas, and I said, “hey, what about drinks? I go out a fair amount.” That simple. It began mostly with bar reviews, with some coffee and tea thrown in for good measure.
But that slowly started to change when I realized there were people passionate about drinks culture in the city – not just nightlife and where to go to get wasted (not that I was writing about that! those days are over, darlings, good-bye jello shots!). It was a humbling experience to discover what a neophyte I was – when I got caught in the crossfire of a discussion on how to make your own bitters, for example, or the first time someone asked me whether I preferred green or yellow Chartreuse. Certainly the vast world of wine was still a mystery despite the wine barexplosion, and don’t even get me started about my beer ineptitude.
So why I am admitting this to you? Because these days I’m all about humility. I may be opinionated, but I’m still eager to learn and am constantly excited about the many different possibilities in our city of drinks. Respect for the taste and the balance of a proper cocktail, diving into the vast world of wine and beer, and most importantly understanding your own tolerance – that’s been my experience in 2009. Here are a few key moments that helped me on this continuing journey. Continue reading →
Fall cocktails… Once upon a time, that just meant drinks with heavy cream. No more, thanks to some brilliant mixology (my waistline is thankful too).
I’ve been sampling some luscious fall drinks. Everyone is rolling out menus featuring autumnal tastes – apple, pear, cinnamon, pepper, rosemary, cardamom – oh my. Spice has cream beat! Mulling and infusion are everywhere. It’s a good season for sipping slowly, admiring how flavors change and deepen over the course of your evening. Sigh.
Another fantastic benefit of all these freshly squeezed juices and housemade sodas and herbal infusions is that many bars are now offering non-alcoholic versions of their cocktails. With lots of parties and events in the fall, if you don’t feel like imbibing or are not able, you should always feel unabashed to ask. A good bartender should be able to respond without making you feel like a second-class citizen.
So let’s get down to it, shall we? Some of my favorite fall cocktails, with the usual quirky candlelit odd-angle photographs… Continue reading →
It’s a drink-focused round-up this week, but I think that’s because spring is in the air and all of us are practically clawing at our office doors to escape to grab a beer on the patio with friends. That said – Earth Day, jazz brunches, cocktails from the city’s best mixologists and a new team at Sonoma make up all the news that is fit to eat in the District this week. Continue reading →
"Tabard Inn Cocktail" with lemon zest and thyme leaves...
When the weather gets frigid, I begin my never-ending quest for a drinks spot with “hygge.” This is one of those totally untranslatable Danish words – encompassing a feeling of warmth, cosiness, and social cheer, hopefully accented by music and free of pretension – the feeling you get on a cold night, halfway through a mulled cider or a hot toddy, sinking into a soft divan before a fireplace, surrounded by jazz aficionados – wait a minute, here’s a much easier translation:
Tabard Inn is a classic small hotel, neither swank nor modern nor cold, with an antique-filled, lived-in look, like a grandmother with a twinkle in her eye. It’s hard to go wrong with drinks in the firelit front room, but you can also snuggle up in one of the many nooks upstairs or at the bar in the dining room. It’s the sort of place my girlfriends and I go when we want “proper cocktails” in a quiet comfortable corner – reminding me of my favorite place for drinks in NYC, the Algonquin Hotel.
Last Sunday was one of those nights, with a brisk wind driving us to thoughts of mulled cider before the fireplace.