Cathy Barrow // Photo: courtesy of Story District

Breaking Bread: Food Industry Vets And Celebrity Chefs Open Up To DC Audiences

Food tells stories about our lives: recipes handed down through generations with no exact measurements, a dish that was learned while traveling abroad or even a recipe discovered when you had to get creative with what little there was in the pantry – and it turned out delicious. Food tells stories about our families, our cultural heritage, our travels and so much more.

When searching for recipes online, you’d be hard-pressed to find a recipe that isn’t accompanied by a story of some kind. Even for cooks as challenged in the kitchen as I am, my favorite dishes all have their own stories – like the Egyptian macaroni béchamel that my mother refuses to write down exact directions for or the scrambled eggs with corned beef that makes up my father’s entire recipe repertoire (to be eaten straight from the pan with pita bread, no discussion).

The stories that surround the food we make can be touching, funny, nostalgic, painful or, likely in a lot of cases, some combination of all four. So, imagine the stories that professional chefs and those who work in the food industry can tell. Local arts organization and storytelling series Story District is hosting Breaking Bread to do just that: tell their stories. On December 17, celebrity chefs and insiders from the food and hospitality industry in the DC area will gather at Sixth & I downtown to share their stories onstage.

Their stories are as diverse and varied as the foods they cook. Celebrity chef and TV personality Carla Hall will tell a story about her time as a competitor on Top Chef. Washington Post food writer Cathy Barrow will tell the audience about a 60s dinner party scene, à la Mad Men. Chef Ashish Alfred, owner of three Bethesda restaurants (Duck Duck Goose, George’s Chophouse and The Loft at 4935), will tell his harrowing tale about overcoming addiction while choosing to remain in an industry that can be grueling.

Although their careers and experiences might seem intimidating to those who can barely boil water, the stories they’ll tell are about much more than just food.

“Any time I share my story, I hope people take away that if you want a different life, the only thing standing in your way is you,” Alfred told On Tap.

Alfred knew exactly what story he wanted to tell. But for Hall, who can be seen cooking – and acting – on TV and who used to model, narrowing it down to one story was more difficult.

“It’s like therapy when you’re going through [the process], because it’s so much and they are pulling these stories out of you, which is so incredible,” Hall said.

She ultimately decided on a story about her time on Top Chef because it’s a story of a struggle.

“People assume from the outside that success looks one way and I think in telling my story, it will show a different side of myself. People are so used to me being shown [in this] very happy [way], which is true. But this is a story [where] I am actually sharing a struggle.”

Although being in the competitive limelight of a show like Top Chef might seem natural for someone as used to celebrity attention as Hall, she had to get used to judgment – not only from the judges on the show but from the millions who were watching it, too.

“It’s emotionally hard. You feel emotionally exposed [and] vulnerable because you’re making your food and then you’re being judged. You’re being judged publicly by millions of people who can’t actually eat the food.”

When it was time for Barrow to pick a story, she thought she knew exactly what she wanted to tell: how she became a food writer. But she said the story, told on many a book tour, felt stale. Instead, she decided on something a little more glamorous.

“My story is about how the dinner party scene in the 60s and Andy Warhol and my dreams of stardom all came together.”

Barrow’s story will touch on the family history genre of food stories, describing a time when people – including Barrow’s mother – hosted or attended dinner parties every weekend. The 60s was the decade that most informed Barrow’s cooking experience.

“I have been cooking since I was a very young child, and I had really expanded expectations. I wasn’t just going to make chocolate chip cookies. I was going to make a madeleine, you know? The dinner party was what informed all of that for me. There was a whole ritual to it – the fine china, the linen, the crystal – and how shiny everything was. It was very fancy.”

And non-chefs have a lot to learn from those in the industry.

“I think there’s always something to learn from people in the food industry because that’s what we work with,” Barrow said. “There’s a lot more to us. These stories are stories of redemption and expansion and unlikely opportunity, and I think that that resonates in all aspects of life and every kind of work.”

These stories remind us of the fact that chefs are normal people. The food industry can be a difficult place to work on every level, even if you’re not in the spotlight.

“We are real people with real problems who are laying ourselves bare every time we serve a plate and invite you into our restaurants,” Alfred said.

Despite the diversity of their stories, everyone had a similar answer when about what makes DC’s food scene special: the people who work in it.

“There is a great community [in DC] where it doesn’t necessarily feel competitive,” Hall said. “It feels like we’re all in this together.”

Catch Hall, Alfred, Barrow and four other DC food industry vets speak at Sixth & I for Breaking Bread: Stories by Celebrity Chefs and Industry Insiders on Tuesday, December 17. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are $30-$35. Learn more at www.storydistrict.org.

Sixth & I: 600 I St. NW, DC; 202-408-3100; www.sixthandi.org

Brookland pint flight // Photos: Chelsea Bailey

Drinking In A Winter Wonderland: The Local Lowdown On Seasonal Beers From On Tap’s Resident Beer Nerds

Two of our favorite local beer enthusiasts joined forces to find five spots around the DMV with diverse tap lists and rotating seasonal pours. Anna Jacoby and Chelsea Bailey found more than just winter warmers on their beer-focused adventure – they found beer menus that satisfied each other’s varying taste profile preferences.

“I like my winter beers like my soul: cold and dark,” Bailey says.

She tends to favor stouts, porters, black lagers and black IPAs. While winter isn’t her favorite beer season, Jacoby loves porters.

“I like stouts, too, but steer clear of winter brews that are too aggressive with spices. I don’t like it when my beer tastes like liquid allspice.”

If there’s one thing they can agree on, it’s that each beer has a time and a place. Whether it’s in front of a firepit or casually drinking with friends at the pub, there is a moment for every kind of beer. Read on to find out what happens when two strangers with a common love of craft beer, but very different taste buds, come together to try seasonal brews at some of the best beer spots in the area.

Brookland Pint

BROOKLAND PINT

716 Monroe St. NE, DC; www.brooklandpint.com

Brookland Pint, along with sister spots Smoke & Barrel and Meridian Pint, is known for its superior tap list curated by legendary beverage director Jace Gonnerman. At this Monroe Street locale, we created our own winter beer flight simply because #InJaceWeTrust. Our flight consisted of every dark beer that was on their list at the time of our visit.

DC Brau Penn Quarter Porter

Chelsea: I love how it has a malt profile but also chocolate notes. It’s super sessionable.

Anna: There are malty chocolate flavors but they’re not overpowering, so it’s not rich or like a milkshake.

Chelsea: Also, the mouthfeel is a lot lighter than what you get with a stout.

Chelsea: B // Anna: B

Perennial Artisan Ales Fantastic Voyage Stout

Anna: Wow. That’s complex. It’s thick and the opposite of the Penn Quarter porter and has some coffee notes. Tell me your secrets. What’s in it?

Chelsea: Coconut! It has a lot of chocolate notes and coconut.

Anna: It’s funny that it’s a seasonal winter beer style, but it has that tropical kick at the end.

Chelsea: It’s a well-executed stout. The mouthfeel is phenomenal: very smooth, thick, slightly sweet, but not overly sweet. I could have a whole pint of this.

Chelsea: A // Anna: A

Goose Island Bourbon County Vanilla Stout

Chelsea: Now I know I’m going to like this.

Anna: That smells familiar. What is that smell?

Chelsea: College.

Anna takes sip: Well, that’s different.

Chelsea: Good different or bad different?

Anna: It’s a lot. I appreciate the complexity of it. But I couldn’t like, sit and drink it casually.

Chelsea: It’s the perfect beer to have while sitting by a fire with blankets.

Anna: It’s an experience – a time-and-place kind of beer.

Chelsea: B // Anna: C

Quarry House Tavern

QUARRY HOUSE TAVERN

8401 Georgia Ave. Silver Spring, MD; www.fb.com/quarryhouse

Not even a fire, broken water main, or the resulting three-year hiatus could keep people from flocking to this Silver Spring classic. Resurrected in May 2018, Quarry House Tavern is an unpretentious, quintessential basement dive bar with grungy charm. Its list of over 200-plus beers or “beericulum vitae,” as general manager and drink curator Ellen Cox calls it, is extensive and wide-ranging. Cox is a human beer encyclopedia, so we knew we were in good hands. She is more than happy to nerd out with her customers when it comes to trying craft beer. One of the first winter pours we tried was an inaugural holiday bière de garde ale, which Cox explained is a French style of brewing that results in champagne-like carbonation. She tried it for the first time with us. Upon tasting, all-around enthusiasm ensued.

Two Roads Holiday Ale Bière de Garde

Ellen, whispering excitedly: See? Look at the tiny bubbles in this!

Anna: It does look like champagne. I probably wouldn’t have known it was a beer.

Ellen: Oh, that’s nice. It’s very clean for a holiday beer. That’s great!

Anna: I always worry about holiday ones because I feel like they’re going to overdo it.

Chelsea: I feel like people try to fill holiday beers with like, every single clove and allspice they have.

Ellen: Alright. I love this beer – the little bit of tartness, kind of almost like a cranberry in the back. And the bubbles are light on your tongue.

Chelsea: They’re like, “Hello!” It’s a little treat. It’s a very happy beer.

Anna: Nice surprise, this one.

Chelsea: B // Anna: B+

Southern Tier 2XMAS Spiced Double Ale

Anna: It smells festive, gingery.

Chelsea: It smells minty to me. That’s nice. It doesn’t taste like an 8 percent [ABV] beer. That’s dangerous!

Anna: I’m getting a little pepper at the very end.

Ellen: It’s like a white pepper almost.

Chelsea: This would pair really well with soft cheeses, I feel like. Some prosciutto or salami. Grapes.

Ellen: Grapes and some heavy-duty local honey.

Chelsea: Now I know what I’m doing for dinner tonight.

Anna: If a beer inspires you to plan an entire meal around it…

Chelsea: That tells you the beer has made an impression.

Chelsea: A // Anna: B+

Left Hand Chai Milk Stout Nitro

Anna: I’m getting a little bit of a sweet potato vibe.

Ellen: So good over ice cream.

Anna: Oh my god, that’s genius. It’s a milk stout?

Ellen: Yeah. Beer floats! You pick the porter, we provide the ice cream. It’s on our menu.

Chelsea: That’s what Left Hand does really, really well is a milk stout.

Chelsea: B // Anna: B

Jackpot

JACKPOT

726 7th St. NW, DC; www.jackpotdc.com

Jackpot has a beer-meets-speakeasy vibe. As you climb down the stairs to this basement bar in Chinatown across the street from Capital One Arena, you are not quite sure what to expect. Upon walking in, you are instantly greeted with the scent of warm, fresh popcorn. We reviewed the tap list here and were impressed with their winter offerings. They do not offer flights, but being the intrepid reporters that we are, we didn’t let that stop us. We ordered five pints, and while it was hard to choose, these were our top three.

Red Bear Brewing Polar Bear Wheat Pale Ale

Chelsea: I really like this. I just wasn’t sure what to expect. Is it going to taste like a wheat or like a pale ale? But it tastes like both. I’m still a little confused.

Anna: This is subtly reminiscent of an amber ale.

Chelsea: This might be one of my new favorite winter beers. Good job, Red Bear.

Chelsea: A // Anna: B+

Alewerks Coffeehouse Stout

Anna: I want to put that on ice cream. I really do. When I drink it, I think of vanilla ice cream.

Chelsea: This to me is an example of a well-executed beer. Robust and full of coffee notes, but well-balanced.

Anna: This one keeps flirting with me. I keep wanting to try it and see what new flavors I’m going to get from it.

Chelsea: A // Anna: B+

Clown Shoes Hammer of the Lion

Anna: Do you like it?

Chelsea: I like it! The flavor changes from when you take your initial sip. This is 11 percent [ABV] so I was expecting to be bashed in the face with booze. This one is deceptive.

Anna: It looks like it is going to taste a lot more aggressive than it is.

Chelsea: B // Anna: C

Westover Market

WESTOVER MARKET AND BEER GARDEN

5863 Washington Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.westovermarketbeergarden.com

Westover Market and Beer Garden in Arlington is a whimsical, multifunctional establishment with a little bit of everything: all-in-one deli, beer garden, butcher shop, bar, bottle shop, bodega, grocery store, gift shop and even art gallery with wall-to-wall, booze-themed murals. Commenting on the bar alone would be a disservice to readers who have never been here. Westover’s multipurpose market is just as notable as its tap list. A wide range of craft beers line the walls and even wind up a few of the aisles. Each time we thought we had reached the end of the market’s beer selection, it just kept going. Back at the bar, we tried one winter cider and two beers.

Supreme Core Cider Ginger Beard Man

Chelsea: Going into it, my expectation was sweet. But that’s my general expectation of a cider.

Anna: Agreed. It smells like Martinelli’s apple juice but tastes nothing like it.

Chelsea: It smells the way an apple pie would smell, and then you take a sip of it. It’s very dry, very ginger. As someone who is not the biggest ginger fan, I think that this is all that I would be able to drink of it.

Anna: This is yum. I love the ginger. It’s not what I expected because I’m not the biggest cider fan. I was worried because it smells like it’s going to be so sweet.

Chelsea: C // Anna: A

Rocket Frog Brewing Company Best Buddy Milk Stout

Anna: That’s super smooth.

Chelsea: I love milk stouts, so this will always be what I gravitate toward. It’s coffee-forward but not overwhelmingly so, and lightly sweet but very balanced.

Anna: That’s really tasty. Sometimes, I can’t drink a stout and not think about putting it on ice cream. So, I want to put that on ice cream.

Chelsea: This has been a consistent thing with you.

Chelsea: A // Anna: B+ alone, A with dessert

Three Notch’d Brewing Company Oats McGoat’s Oatmeal Stout

Anna: This smells like a solid, straightforward oatmeal stout.

Chelsea: It’s toasty and roasty without it being overly coffee. It’s malty and very lightly sweet, but not overwhelming. The mouthfeel is super light.

Chelsea: B // Anna: B+

Galaxy Hut

GALAXY HUT

2711 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.galaxyhut.com

This staple craft beer bar has so many different beers on tap that sometimes guests get overwhelmed, but the bar staff are happy to guide even the most inexperienced craft beer drinkers toward the right beer for their tastes. They want people to be able to come in, have a good time and enjoy what they are drinking. It’s what makes the Clarendon spot an overall great neighborhood bar. We were fortunate enough to be joined by Galaxy Hut’s Patrick Fish as we sampled their winter offerings.

Anderson Valley Nitro Cerveza Crema

Anna: I don’t smell anything notable with this one, but I like the taste.

Chelsea: It’s sessionable. I’m not getting a lot of flavor, but it’s something I would certainly sip on. I would consider this a casual beer to have during the winter that is not a dark beer.

Chelsea: C // Anna: C

Hardywood Bourbon Barrel GBS

Anna: This is sweet.

Chelsea: I agree. It is sweet. What I like about it, though, is that it doesn’t punch you in the face with the bourbon, which has been my hesitation with barrel-aged beers these days.

Anna: Personally, I don’t think I could drink a lot of it. It is just a little too sweet for me.

Chelsea: The mouthfeel is a lot lighter than I was expecting. I’ve gotten used to a heavier mouthfeel with heavier beers. It also doesn’t taste like ginger, which makes me happy.

Chelsea: A // Anna: C

Ardent Imperial Milk Stout

Patrick: This one’s got that kind of nice sweet-but-not-syrupy, without being overpowering.

Anna: That is a level of sweet that I can tolerate.

Patrick: That is probably my favorite dark beer that we have right now.

Chelsea: This is really good. I would have multiple pints of it. It actually reminds me of Port City’s porter. It has a lot of the same roasty notes: slightly coffee on the back of the tongue, but not overwhelmingly so. This is a milk stout, right? It’s not super lactose-y.

Anna: I wouldn’t say that I would put this one on ice cream.

Chelsea: B // Anna: B

The Imperial Gin and Tonic // Photo: Rey Lopez

Behind The Bar With The Imperial’s Andy Bixby

Since its long-awaited opening in November, The Imperial in Adams Morgan has quickly become a destination for cocktail enthusiasts buzzing about the funky ingredients and collection of rare bottles and vintages. Bridging together multiple historic buildings, the highly anticipated three-level concept from Jack Rose owners Bill Thomas and Stephen King has become a multi-floor playground of sorts for beverage director Andy Bixby.

He’s able to let loose in the basement of The Imperial, where neighboring Jack Rose’s cocktail bar Dram & Grain has relocated to provide an outlet for offbeat and unconventional cocktails. The first floor focuses on a cocktail menu that pairs well with the raw bar, seafood and Mid-Atlantic menu offerings.

From building on and elevating base ingredients to presenting innovative cocktails with a new perspective, Bixby is constantly challenging his team to think about the next ingredient, the next recipe and the next concoction. We caught up with him to find out what first-time guests and repeat customers can look forward to at The Imperial this winter.

Andy Bixby // Photo: courtesy of Julep PR

On Tap: It’s been a long road to opening The Imperial. What are you most excited to share with guests now that you’re officially up and running?
Andy Bixby: I think it’s the full space. [Co-owner] Steve [King] has done a ton of work making sure the design is great. [Chef] Russell [Jones] has done an incredible job making sure the food is good. My hope is that I can help to complement and build upon that with cocktails I think are meant to be consumed with food. I’m excited for people to come out and try things that wouldn’t necessarily be the first thing they’d order, [and] to have people’s eyes opened up to new corners of the beverage world.

OT: The food menu is taking more of a role than at sister restaurant and bar Jack Rose. How does the beverage program play into the menu?
AB: I was very excited to take on this program as a sister program to Jack Rose because this allows me to flesh out more of my creativity. It’s always been about the food on this first floor. The beverages were always meant to help elevate and bolster that food program. The Cham-boo! is one of our cocktails featured on the main floor because it is the perfect pairing with the majority of our food. In essence, [it’s] a classic cocktail called the Bamboo. We’re taking that concept, force carbonating the whole thing and turning it into an emulation of how you drink champagne. But [it’s] actually just an elevated form of this cocktail.


The Imperial Gin and Tonic
Bombay Sapphire
House dehydrated grapefruit tonic
Clarified lemon & grapefruit
Juniper salt
Saline & CO2
Garnished with fresh grapefruit, thyme, tarragon & juniper berries


OT: A lot of the focus surrounding The Imperial’s opening has been centered on the rare bottles, vintages and unconventional cocktail ingredients. Talk to me more about the varied selection.
AB: [Bill Thomas] spent the last two years really scouring to curate vintage spirits. The oldest thing we have is a bottle-and-a-half of cognac bottled in 1854. We have turn-of-the-1900s madeira, ports and sherries. We also have 1960s Galliano Amaretto. As far as the real fun ingredients, that’s where the basement comes in. Right now, we have three base ingredients on the menu: a citrus amaro, a tamaro (three different amari blended together and sous-vide with tamari, shoyu, miso, mirin, lemongrass, ginger, sesame seeds [and] dehydrated lime), and an anisette. We can constantly rotate the menu while we keep [those] ingredients and start making new ingredients. The goal is that we can still always produce these drinks, or at least very close facsimiles of them, by the time people start to fall in love with them and want to keep coming back.

OT: The reception has been overwhelmingly positive so far, with lines out the door before the bar is even open. What do you think is behind this buzz and what does that say about the cocktail culture in DC?
AB: The cocktail culture in the city has changed drastically. I’ve been bartending now for almost 11 years and I’ve noticed a significant change in how people are going out and wanting to imbibe. Guests want to be educated [and] learn more. I’ve always focused on bartender-to-guest interaction because I want to make sure that if you have questions, you can have that outlet – somebody that can talk you through with confidence and understanding of what’s going on in the beverage. I think that’s [been] a huge change over the last couple of years.

OT: If you had to select one drink from the menu that you’d recommend to guests, which would you go with?
AB: I think the Cham-boo! is an incredible cocktail that helps bridge [the gap between] people that love cocktails but also those that don’t necessarily want to think about cocktails as much. Our Imperial Gin and Tonic [is] our cornerstone drink to what I want the program to be. It is a Spanish-style gin and tonic served with Bombay Sapphire, our house dehydrated grapefruit tonic and a little bit of juniper salt. The tonic itself has clarified lemon and grapefruit. [It’s] fully carbonated [and] we serve it in a large balloon glass with a grapefruit wheel, thyme and tarragon bunched together [with] juniper berries. I think it’s an aesthetically beautiful cocktail. It’s simple in concept, but we are giving you a gin and tonic that is wildly different from any gin and tonic you’ve had before.

The Imperial: 2001 18th St. NW, DC; http://imperialdc.com

Photo: courtesy of Bourbon Steak

10 Cozy Spots Where To Imbibe, Nosh And Warm Up This Winter

With winter creeping up on the calendar, motivation can wane to get out of the house and into the cold. But rather than stay stuck inside, aim for a meal with a side of warmth and comfort. Be it beside a fire, curled up with a blanket, or just enjoying an indulgent plate of fondue or curry, here are 10 bars and restaurants where you can be sure to stay cozy this season.

Bourbon Steak

As long as it’s cold outside, the patio at Bourbon Steak in Georgetown will welcome guests with three premium champagne-themed bubbles. Each enclosed dome has its own theme: one dedicated to Dom Perignon, one to Krug and one to Ruinart. While each bubble has suggested pairings, the restaurant’s entire menu is available throughout the patio, including drinks. “You can sit in there and have a full dining experience,” says general manager David Van Meerbeke. “We see it as an extension of our restaurant.” Reservations are highly suggested, and each bubble has a reservation fee along with a food and beverage minimum. They’ll be available through the end of winter. 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; www.fourseasons.com/washington/dining/restaurants/bourbon_steak/

Brasserie Liberte

French classics get a fresh look at Georgetown’s newest brasserie – a casual location for lunch, dinner and brunch. Expect French onion soup, beef or vegan mushroom bourguignon, steak or mussels with fries, and more. The cocktail list is extensive, as is the selection of French wines. And its spacious booths – including one modeled off a Fabergé egg – are great for lingering over some pastries and coffee. 3251 Prospect St. NW, DC; www.libertedc.com

Butter Chicken Company

Fight the midday blues with a hearty lunch at this Indian newcomer near Foggy Bottom and the White House. Owner Asad Sheikh, who also owns two Bombay Street Food locations in the District, keeps this fast-casual kitchen simple. “Our classic Indian dishes like butter chicken, chicken tikka masala and saag paneer are hearty, and the spice level brings on the heat and warms you up,” he says. Meals come as combo platters, generously sized with a choice of entree (a vegetarian option is available), rice, two sides and naan. The restaurant opens at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday and closes once the day’s food is out. 818 18th St. NW, DC; www.usabutterchicken.com

Conrad Hotel

Along New York Avenue, the luxury Conrad Hotel is bringing the charm of a French ski lodge to downtown DC. Director of food and beverage Troy Knapp says guests can defrost with a rooftop après-ski experience that includes blankets, fire pits, thermoses full of spiked beverages and hearty snacks designed to evoke the alps. Drinks include shareable hot buttered rum and “haute” toddies along with wines by the glass, beers and other wintery cocktails. For food, graze on a European meat and cheese board or indulge with a rich croque madame sandwich with duck confit. S’mores offer a sweet ending to any evening. Groups of four to 12 looking for something extra can opt for the Conrad’s fireside vintage port experience, served with Stilton-style cheese. “We’ve secured a few bottles of Fonseca port from the 85 vintage and we’re presenting it with a traditional glass breaking method, which is really quite impressive,” Knapp says. 950 New York Ave. NW, DC; www.conradhotels3.hilton.com

Dram & Grain

After a 15-month closure, one of DC’s best cocktail bars got new life this November when it opened in its new Adams Morgan home. Located beneath The Imperial, Dram & Grain offers reservations for seated tastings as well as an à la carte menu and space for walk-ins. Drinks include unique creations and classics mixed with house-made ingredients like baked citrus amaro, black peppercorn tonic and nigiri jasmine rice syrup. A separate fireplace room seats 24 and is available for private events.
2001 18th St. NW, DC; www.dramandgrain.com

Hazel

Shaw has no shortage of food and drink options. But few things cut through the chill better than the heaters, fire pits and blankets on the Hazel patio. Inside, grab a local craft beer and a meal of Turkish-inspired food from chef Robert Curtis. A good starting point is to order up a few dips and spreads – sweet potato hummus, red pepper and walnut muhammara, for example – served with a side of pita-style “laffa” bread. The rest of the menu is structured from appetizers to medium and large-sized entrees of swordfish or lamb neck, all meant to be shared. 808 V St. NW, DC; www.hazelrestaurant.com

LAnnexe

Take a break from holiday shopping and stop in for a cocktail and a bite at this European-inspired M Street bar. Drinks are crafted from behind the zinc bar using craft spirits and house-infusions. “We want our space to be as welcoming as we are, like guests to our home,” says owner Fady Saba. “So, being at the bar is like when you gather in a friend’s kitchen, move about, have a bite, a sip, a chat.” Drink recipes range from melon-infused vodka to a turmeric root rum. Savory dishes include small plates like corn hummus with subtle heat, skewers of scallops and pork belly, and spreads of cheese and charcuterie. It’s the mushroom toast, however, that Saba says has become a customer favorite. “The combination of pecorino cheese with pine nut jam and sage blends perfectly with the mushrooms, but the melt-in-your-mouth brown butter powder sprinkled over it is the real secret to its popularity,” he says, recommending a pairing with the bar’s twist on an old fashioned. In addition to the bar, the dining room offers space for more conversation with friends, as does the low-lit “library” in the rear. 2917 M St. NW, DC; www.lannexe-bar.com

Officina

Carb load with fresh pastas and other Italian favorites at this Wharf neighborhood restaurant and market. Have a meal in the dining room, grab some food and ingredients to cook at home, or bundle up with a blanket, fireside seat and river views on the rooftop terrazza, open year-round. 1120 Maine Ave. SW, DC; www.officinadc.com

Stable

Swiss culture and cuisine come together at this cozy H Street eatery. Ward off winter’s cold, dark days with a bubbling vessel of traditional cheese fondue mixed with garlic and black pepper or schnapps. Equally warming are the chicken wings, raclette toast, and hearty venison loin served with spaetzli, braised red cabbage and chestnuts. For drinks, knock back a European beer or go for the strong Immune Booster cocktail, made with bourbon, rose hip, lemon juice and raspberry. 1324 H St. NE, DC; www.stabledc.com

Tabard Inn

The Tabard Inn is the oldest continuing running hotel in DC, catering to locals and guests alike. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights bring live jazz to its fireplace lounge – an ideal setting during the winter months. Dinner dishes run the gamut from duck leg confit and heritage pork chops to gochujang cioppino. 1739 N St. NW, DC; www.tabardinn.com

What’s On Tap: December 2019

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 8

Good Tidings Sunday
Port City Brewing Company is going to deck the halls with boughs of holly and good tidings. Start off the day by trying a Barrel Aged Tidings Ale, aged in a chardonnay barrel, followed by Holiday Trivia at 3 p.m. and photos with Santa from 4-8 p.m. Trivia requires a $7 ticket but it’s free to enjoy the Tasting Room or sit with Santa. 12-8 p.m. Free to attend, trivia ticket $7. Port City Brewing Company: 3950 Wheeler Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.portcitybrewing.com

Wicks & Sips
Enjoy a craft beer while having fun making your own candle. During this event you will create your own soy wax candle, selecting the vessel, scent and color of your choice. 2-5 p.m. Tickets $21. Eavesdrop Brewery: 7223 Centreville Rd. Manassas, VA; www.eavesdropbrewery.com

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 10

Crafting Happy Hour
Handi-hour is DC’s original “crafting happy hour.” Get ready for an evening of creativity, live music by local acts and craft beer from local breweries. Featured crafts are tailored to all skill levels. Your ticket includes all-you-can-craft supplies, craft instructions, two beers and a Handi-hour glass for beer and snacks. 5:30-8 p.m. Tickets $25. Renwick Gallery: 1661 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; www.americanart.si.edu

Sip & Write Workshop
Sip on cider and write! As you wind down 2019, use the crazy highs and lows of the past year as inspiration for short stories in this fiction-focused writing workshop. You will discuss techniques for creating characters, snappy dialogue and vivid scenes. Open to writers of all levels. The workshop will be led by Willona Sloan. Your ticket also includes one pour of cider. 7-9 p.m. Tickets $25. Capitol Cider House: 3930 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; www.capitolciderhouse.com

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 17, 24 & 31

Pints & Pawns Chess Club
Chess players of any skill level are invited. Games may be played both with and without time controls depending on individual preferences. The club meets in the Taproom at T.J. Stone’s, that means if you enjoy beer, then grab a pint or two as an added bonus. Games start at 7 p.m. Free to attend. T.J. Stone’s: 608 Montgomery St. Alexandria, VA; www.tjstones.com

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 11 & 18

The Comments Section: A Stand-Up Comedy Show
The comments section is the best part of most articles, which is why Capital Laughs anthropomorphized it into a comedy show! In this show, a comic does their set, while four comic commentators write thoughts on comment cards. Then, the host reads the funniest as the performer looks on take in the trolling. 7 p.m. Free to attend. Capitol Cider House: 3930 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; www.capitallaughs.com

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 12

Brewlights at Zoolights
Friends of the National Zoo’s hoppiest holiday event, BrewLights, a ticketed microbrew and craft beer event, will take place during ZooLights, powered by Pepco. Guests can enjoy beer tastings from dozens of breweries and sample complimentary snacks, all under the bright lights of DC’s favorite holiday tradition. 6-9 p.m. Tickets $65. Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute: 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.nationalzoo.si.edu

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 13

Can Jam Beer Extravaganza
Come to City Winery to try several canned beers from local breweries with cheese! Can you imagine the delicious local possibilities? 7-9 p.m. Tickets $40. City Winery: 1350 Okie St. NE, DC; www.citywinery.com

December Brewmaster Tour
Spend your evening like a Brewmaster in the 19th-century home of historic DC brewer Christian Heurich. Admission includes an hour-long guided tour of the museum and a local craft beer tasting. You’ll receive one beer flight per person, featuring 4-oz. pours of three local beers to experience the Brewmaster’s Castle with a drink in your hand. After the tour, guests are welcome to mingle in the Conservatory and purchase full beers. Various times. Tickets $30. Heurich House Museum: 1307 New Hampshire Ave. NW, DC; www.heurichhouse.org

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 13, 20 & 27

Friday Night Beers & Bites Tour
The Bluejacket Friday Night Tasting Tour is a special brewery tour offered weekly. Upon arrival, guests will be treated to a signature draft, followed by a full tour of the brewery and operations with three tasters throughout the tour. Guests will then head to the Bottle Shop & Tasting Room to enjoy a flight of three additional tasters each expertly paired with a snack from our talented culinary team led by Chef de Cuisine Marcelle Afram. Various times. Tickets $35. Bluejacket: 300 Tingey St. SE, DC; www.bluejacketdc.com

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 14

3rd Annual Holiday Market
The days are getting shorter and the holiday season is approaching. 7 Locks Brewing officially set the date for their 3rd Annual Holiday Market. Get your holiday shopping done at this festive event and enjoy live music, food, activities and local vendors. Participating vendors include Shafa Blends, Tea Thoughts, pottery by Mary Lou Relle, pottery by Kira Kibler, Sandy Shuman Jewelry and DRM Photography. 3-7 p.m. Free to attend. 7 Locks Brewing: 12227 Wilkins Ave. Rockville, MD; www.7locksbrewing.com

The Hip Hop & Craft Beer Share
Join ChurchKey, MistaForty and DJ Analyze as the venue hosts the Hip Hop & Craft Beer Bottle Share. Come celebrate diversity in craft beer while DJ Analyze spins some classic and golden era hip-hop tracks. 2-6 p.m. Free to attend. ChurchKey: 1337 14th St. NW, DC; www.churchkeydc.com

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 15

Voarm, Sickdeer, Torvus
Prepare to descend into the underworld with Atlas Brew Works. They’re going to give you more soul crushing black metal to make this a true black winter. Bands include VA doom/black metal group Voarm, DC black/death group Sickdeer and DC occult black/doom group Torvus. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $5-$10. Atlas Brew Works: 2052 West Virginia Ave. NE, DC; www.atlasbrewworks.com

MONDAY, DECEMBER 16

Painting & Pints: Winter Wonderland
Come paint and drink amazing beer. We may not all be Van Gogh, but that’s what the beer is for. The session will run approximately 90 minutes and your first pint is included. All design levels are encouraged to participate. 6 p.m. Tickets $30. Fair Winds Brewing: 7000 Newington Rd. Lorton, VA; www.fairwindsbrewing.com

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 17

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year for a Beer
Join Belga Cafe at The Betsy as they get cozy and pop open some of the most anticipated beers of the year. Sit back and relax while sipping and sampling and talking all things beer. Brews include St. Bernardus Christmas Ale, Straffe Hendrik Xmas Blend, Scaldis Noël and Corsendonk Christmas Ale. 6:30-8:30 p.m. Tickets $39. The Betsy: 514 8th St. SE, DC; www.belgacafe.com

Tuesday Brewsday
Every Tuesday the bar in Kramerbooks & Afterwords showcases 18 half-price pints, including new rotating limited and specialty run drafts and cans. Each week highlights different varietals. It’s a great chance to try out new breweries and flavor profiles. 7 p.m. – 1 a.m. Free to attend. Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe: 1517 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.kramers.com

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 18

Holiday Beer Dinner
Join Chef Ryan Gordon and Granville Moore’s beermonger Brendan Kilroy for an evening of food, beer, fun and festivities. Featuring a festive four-course dinner with exclusive holiday beers. 7-10 p.m. Tickets $65. Granville Moore’s: 1238 H St. NE, DC; www.granvillemoores.com

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 21

Draughts & Laughs Comedy Show
Get ready for the finest that comedy has to offer, paired with Twinpanzee’s fresh and delicious signature brews. The North American Comedy Brewery Tour brings the best of the best North American comedians to local breweries across the United States for an evening that keeps the beers flowing and the laughs coming. 8-10 p.m. Tickets $20. Twinpanzee: 101 Executive Dr. Sterling, VA; www.facebook.com/Twinpanzee

Hike and Hops: Sky Meadows and Dirt Farm Brewing
Cold beer is even better at the end of a great day outside. Join REI for a guided hike of the Piedmont Overlook Loop in Sky Meadows State Park. This hike is just more than five miles, and includes spectacular views of the Piedmont and a section of the fabled Appalachian Trail. Then there will be drive a short distance to another peak Blue Ridge experience: the farm-to-pint brewing of Dirt Farm Brewing in Bluemont, Virginia. 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tickets $75+. Washington DC REI: 201 M St. NE, DC; www.rei.com

Dio // Photo: Durazo Photography

Unexpected Bubbly: Your Cheat Sheet To Unique Sparkling Wines In The District

Nothing says “celebration” quite like opening a bottle of bubbles, and there’s no better time to celebrate than the holidays. It’s easy to default to champagne as the bubbly of choice, but with the variety of excellent sparkling wine made the world over now, it’s time to try something a little different. These destinations showcase some of the city’s best wine lists with an impressive breadth of wines across many regions, styles and price points. While they are great wine spots overall, we specifically asked about some out-of-the-box sparkling wines to enjoy this holiday season so read on for your local cheat sheet of unexpected bubbly.

City Bubbles at City Winery

City Winery Beverage Director Magdala Francillon recommends the City Bubbles this holiday season. The grapes are brought from the largest vineyard in the Penedès region of Spain: the home of cava. The City Bubbles cava is aged for 12 months and “has fine champagne-like bubbles with notes of zesty citrus and brioche.” Magdala recommends this for the holiday season because it is outstanding quality at a tremendous value ($11 by the glass, $55 by the bottle).

She suggests pairing this wine with Mediterranean-inspired dishes at the Ivy City restaurant. Her recommendations include Chef Brandon Ingenito’s mussels with garlic, shallots, pancetta, cream and grilled ciabatta or his smoked pork belly served with braised collards, spiced apples and honey mustard glaze.

1350 Okie St. NE, DC; www.citywinery.com/washingtondc

Fable Farm Fluxion Ancestral & Old Westminster Pét-Nat at Dio Wine Bar

This H Street spot focuses on natural wines made from organic or biodynamically farmed grapes with no added yeast or other additives. Owner Stacey Khoury-Diaz has two recommendations: one local and the other domestic.

“Since we work with natural wines at Dio, some of my favorite bubbles are pét-nats (short for pétillant naturel),” she says. “The short story on this type of wine is that it’s all naturally occurring bubbles. In more technical language, that means primary fermentation starts and finishes in the bottle and the wine is often not disgorged, leaving the final product cloudy.”

When you are drinking a pét-nat, you are drinking something unpolished and unadorned – and that’s the beauty of it.

“We have many wines made in this style, but some of my favorites are the pét-nats from Old Westminster Winery in Maryland. They make these types of bubbles from grapes like syrah, muscat, pinot gris and more.”

And yes, you can try all of them at Dio. According to Khoury-Diaz, the flavor profiles have quite a range depending on the grape, but the muscat is floral, fresh and “absolutely chuggable.” Another bubbly recommendation is the Fable Farm Fluxion Ancestral from Vermont.

“It’s actually a cider made from wild foraged apples, but the producers consider themselves winemakers so we do, too. The Fluxion is bright, funky and earthy.”

Diaz says that both the Fable Farm and Old Westminster have cutting acidity, which pair well with fatty dishes: everything from fried foods to salty and savory charcuterie.

904 H St. NE, DC; www.diowinebar.com

Mousseux Bugey-Cerdon Rosé La Cueille at Plume

Inside the historic Jefferson Hotel downtown, Plume has a spectacular selection list with tons of wines emphasizing Spain, France, California and plenty of local Virginia favorites. Thomas Jefferson was truly a wine connoisseur, and the wine list at Plume pays homage to his passion. There are over 50 vintages available, a variety of half bottles and helpful suggestions of “hidden gems,” which highlight rare wines of quality and distinction. Plume Manager Sean Mulligan is a fan of pét-nat styles for the holidays.

“Pét-nat, or méthode ancestrale, is a method of sparkling wine production used all over the world and is quintessential for a holiday pour,” he says. “At Plume, we have the following listed on our dessert wine list by the glass for patrons to taste and enjoy: Patrick Bottex, Mousseux Bugey-Cerdon Rosé La Cueille.”

Mulligan’s pick goes for $12 a glass – a steal at this Michelin-starred restaurant.

1200 16th St. NW, DC; www.plumedc.com

Schloss Vaux Cuvée Vaux Brut at The Eastern

Midcentury-inspired The Eastern in Capitol Hill has a wine list of over 40 wines by the glass and bottle with a menu helpfully organized to find something new based on the style of wine you typically like. General manager Robert Morin recommends the Schloss Vaux Cuvée Vaux Brut if you like champagne, for $13 a glass and $48 a bottle.

“This sparkling white wine from Germany is just banging,” Morin says. “Made in the champagne style from pinot noir, pinot blanc and Riesling, there’s that German, cold-weather acidity that cuts through all of the heavy holiday meals but with a creamy finish from the bottle age and 24-month lees aging.”

360 7th St. SE, DC; www.easternwinebar.com

Sella & Mosca Brut at Maxwell Park

Shaw’s Maxwell Park has an extensive and serious wine program, with many selections that change monthly and over 500 selections by the bottle. For a current sparkler, sommelier Niki Lang recommends the 2018 Sella & Mosca Brut from the Sardinia region of Italy for $12 by the glass and $48 by the bottle. Made with the Torbato grape, which is exclusive to Sardinia, Sella & Mosca revived this once-rare white wine grape producing both still and sparkling wines.

“Facing near extinction, Sella & Mosca decided to cultivate Torbato,” Lang says. “Grown on the Northwest corner of Sardinia in Alghero, these limestone-rich soils add complex minerality and its proximity to the sea intensify this with sea spray and savory aromas. Sea spray, acacia and fresh honeysuckle bring you in, followed by brioche and almond. Finally, the fruit appears with fresh quince, green apple skin, star fruit and apricot. Next time you see this, drop the prosecco and proceed with no caution.”

1336 9th St. NW, DC; www.maxwellparkdc.com

Cuvée José at Jaleo

Is there anything José Andrés cannot do? The Cuvée José, created to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the chef’s Penn Quarter mainstay Jaleo, was a collaborative effort between ThinkFoodGroup Wine Director Andy Myers, Pepe Raventós of Raventós i Blanc, ThinkFoodGroup Sommelier Jordi Paronella and Andrés himself.

“The wine represents a traditional approach to Spanish winemaking with a clearly modern touch,” Myers says. “We have found the wine to brilliantly complement the cuisine at all of our ThinkFoodGroup concepts.”

The exclusive bubbly is made in the region of Conca del Riu Anoia in Spain and has a delicate, creamy and toasty character with notes of green apple. Find it at all local Jaleo locations as well as Zaytinya and China Chilcano, and be sure to ask about food pairings for these bubbles.

480 7th St. NW, DC; www.jaleo.com

Amity Commerce Frosted Carrot Garden // Photo: courtesy of Amity Commerce

New And Notable: Amity & Commerce, Brasserie Liberté, Nina May And The Renegade

On Tap keeps locals in the know about the hottest new food and drink spots around town and the top culinary happenings of the month. Read on to get the inside scoop on what’s new and notable in the DC area.

NEW

Amity & Commerce
Open: November 1
Location: Southwest Waterfront
Lowdown: Just across the bridge from the Jefferson Memorial, the Mandarin Oriental’s new restaurant pays homage to the country’s first Ambassador to France and the only Minister Plenipotentiary for Negotiating Treaties of Amity and Commerce. It’s named after the 1778 Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the U.S. and France, and invites diners to break bread in the name of friendship and business. The menu follows suit, with bistro fare influenced by both French and American culinary traditions. Chef de Cuisine Justin Houghtaling struck a balance between the two, crafting dishes like duck liver parfait, caramelized shallot and onion soup, and steak frites along with cocktail shrimp, pan-roasted Amish chicken and a burger. There’s also a selection of chops from the grill, as well as elaborate rotating plats du jour such as braised veal cheeks and marrow jus with ricotta agnolotti, sherry-braised salsify and salsify chips. Executive Pastry Chef Claus Olsen prepares artful and intricate desserts masquerading as fruits and vegetables. The high-ceiling dining room has an open kitchen and a long, wood-topped bar. In the warmer months, the outdoor patio offers additional seating. 1330 Maryland Ave. SW, DC; www.mandarinoriental.com/washington/national-mall/luxury-hotel

Brasserie Liberté
Open: November 16
Location: Georgetown
Lowdown: For his latest restaurant project, restaurateur Hakan Ilhan is bringing back classic. Liberté embodies the French brasserie with traditional fare in a chic yet warm setting. Formerly the den-like Morton’s The Steakhouse, the space has been completely transformed with higher ceilings, modern architectural touches, and vibrant colors, patterns and textures. One booth in the back is sure to be the most requested table in the house: it’s in an ornate alcove reminiscent of a Fabergé egg. Executive Chef Jaryd Hearn – a young Alinea alum – has built a menu that delivers everything you might crave at a brasserie, starting with a hearty French onion soup or buttery escargot followed by duck confit, boeuf Bourguignon (as well as a vegan mushroom option) and steak frites. The superbly seasoned crispy frites are the product of 77 attempts at perfecting the dish. Desserts also hit all the expected notes, with profiteroles, opera cake, Paris-Brest and crème brulée. Much of the wine list is from France, and the cocktail program also goes back to basics with variations of archetypal drinks like the Old Fashioned and French 75. Bartender Zachary Faden is serving two of his creations that won top honors at Tales of the Cocktail, including the world’s best martini. 3251 Prospect St. NW, DC; www.libertedc.com

Nina May
Open: November 1
Location: Shaw
Lowdown: Co-owners chef Colin McClimans and general manager Danilo Simic want you to feel like family at Nina May. They named the farm-to-table restaurant after each of their daughters and the space is old-fashioned and homey, with whitewashed clapboard siding on the interior walls and wooden bench seating like you might find on a boardwalk. The menu is intended for family-style dining, offering large and small shared plates. These dishes, which rotate often based on seasonal availability, are made with ingredients sourced within 150 miles of the city. You can order à la carte or opt for the “Chef’s Choice,” allowing the kitchen to select a variety of dishes for you to enjoy. Early fan favorites include sautéed green beans with cardoons, heirloom carrot and brown butter cavatelli, lemon and thyme roasted Pennsylvania chicken, and a playful pasta dish called green eggs and ham. The cocktail menu is organized by flavor profile, from rich and powerful to bright and crisp. In addition to brunch and dinner service, the first floor will open as a casual counter-service café in the mornings starting in mid-December serving pastries, coffee, light breakfast and lunch. 1337 11th St. NW, DC; www.ninamaydc.com

The Renegade
Open: October 24
Location: Clarendon
Lowdown: No matter the time of day, you can stop by The Renegade. It starts early as a coffee shop, and then the kitchen opens for lunch and dinner. In the evenings, there’s live music (no cover) and the bar stays open until 2 a.m., with a late-night menu available on the weekends. Chef and owner Patrick Crump describes it as an amoeba, ready to adapt for any use. In designing the 5,500-square-foot space, he wanted to ensure that it would serve all of these purposes. There’s high-top seating throughout to encourage mingling; the walls and drink rails are lined with outlets for the remote working crowd; and the large stage is centrally located for optimal viewing. In addition to his culinary resume, which includes a stint at the Inn at Little Washington and a long tenure at Clarendon Ballroom, Crump is also quite handy. He welded the bar himself and personally handled many of the equipment repairs when renovating the kitchen. The menu reflects Crump’s personal preferences, which involves food that comes from the world’s equatorial regions. Within the categories of “goops and scoops,” “grips and stix” and bowls, there are dishes with punchy flavors and wide-ranging influences like spicy red curried collard greens, cinnamon and black pepper lamb lollipops over green rice, and shawarma-spiced chicken in a pita. 3100 Clarendon Blvd. Clarendon, VA; www.renegadeva.com

NOTABLE

The Buena Vida Fiesta Experience
Location: Clarendon
Lowdown: Buena Vida owner Ivan Iricanin is known for the epic unlimited experience that started at his popular Balkan spots, and both locations of his Mexican concept have now followed suit. Priced at $35 per person for dinner and $34 for brunch, the fiesta at Buena Vida Clarendon includes all-you-can-eat small plates from the extensive menu redesigned by newly appointed Alexis Samayoa. As the corporate chef for the group’s Latin concepts, Samayoa brings experience from Spanish and Mexican restaurants in New York as well as Espita Mezcaleria in Shaw, where he served as the opening executive chef. Highlights from Samayoa’s new unlimited menu include chicken empanadas, confit mushrooms in guajillo salsa and hanger steak marinated in chili ash. The brunch menu also includes six house cocktails priced at 25 cents each. 2900 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.buenavidaclarendon.com

Menu Expansion at Bandoola Bowl
Location: Georgetown
Lowdown: This Southeast Asian salad shop from the owners of Mandalay in Silver Spring has officially expanded into the world of carbs. The menu previously offered exclusively salads, featuring the flavors of Burma, Vietnam and Thailand. Now, you can order warm bowls with brown rice or Taiwanese wheat noodles. The protein options for warm bowls include roasted pork, grilled chicken, lightly fried tofu and steamed shrimp. The bowls also come with various fresh veggies and other crunchy ingredients, like shredded cabbage, onions, tomato, red bell pepper, cilantro, crispy garlic and fried shallots. They’re priced at $13-$14 per bowl. 1069 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.bandoolabowl.com

Boeuf Bourguignon // Photo: Scott Suchman

Brassiere Liberté Brings French Staples To Georgetown

Georgetown’s dining scene has been a touch sleepy over the past few years. Up-and-coming neighborhoods in the District have overshadowed once-thriving, traditional food hubs like Georgetown as of late. As the city rapidly changes, restaurateurs looking to open new restaurants turn toward emerging neighborhoods like Shaw, H Street or The Wharf, to name a few. DC restaurateur Hakan Ilhan, however, has faith in Georgetown as a food destination and invested heavily in his latest endeavor on historic Prospect street: Brasserie Liberté.

Ilhan enlisted design firm Swatchroom to completely transform the former Morton’s The Steakhouse space from a dark, outdated cave-like enclosure, to a chic and inviting French-style brasserie. The multi-million dollar renovation includes a floor-to-ceiling wine cellar display, light blue tiling, and soft, warm shades of navy, pumpkin and crimson. A show-stopping domed booth in the private dining area features a delicate hand-painted floral pattern above red velvet upholstered seating. 

The interior is as cohesive as its dinner menu. Highlights include three different kinds of tarte flambees, French onion soup, crispy leg of duck confit, scallop almandine, and of course, the ultimate cold-weather comfort food: boeuf bourguignon. 

“I said to my chefs if we’re going to do this, there are four things you absolutely have to get right: steak tartare, french fries, escargot and boeuf bourguignon,” Ilhan says. “These are [French dishes] everyone knows.” 

In other words: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The french fries, for one, are ideally crispy from end-to-end. And the boeuf bourguignon is one Julia Child would have been proud of. The tender meat succumbs to a fork with ease, falling apart just as it should. If you’re a herbivore, however, vegetarians can take part in this classic French dish by opting for the vegan and gluten-free mushroom bourguignon. 

The man behind the food is 25-year-old Jaryd Hearn, who is currently the youngest executive chef in the city. Hearn previously spent two years cooking at Alinea, Chicago’s only restaurant with three Michelin stars. 

In addition to French staples, Hearn creates vegetarian-friendly salads, moules frites, roasted carrot grain bowl with chickpea puree and seared salmon. 

If you have the stomach real estate after your main meal, save that room for something off of their diverse dessert menu. Options include opera cake, profiteroles and an apple tartlet that comes with homemade brie ice cream so silky you wish you could buy it by the pint.

Based on its first few weeks, Ilhan’s Brassiere Liberte has the potential to level the playing field between DC’s neighborhood eats, making Georgetown a refreshed contender in the city’s comprehensive foodscape.

Brasserie Liberté is open from 11 a.m. – 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. – 2 a.m. on Friday, 8 a.m. – 2 a.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. – 1 a.m. on Sunday.

For more information about Brasserie Liberte, visit www.libertedc.com.

Brasserie Liberte: 3251 Prospect St. NW, DC; 202-878-8404; www.libertedc.com

Duck A L’Orange // Photo: Courtesy of DBGB DC

DBGB’s Festive Holiday Menu Shines at CityCenter DC

For the last five years, DBGB at CityCenter DC has provided the District with the classic French cooking championed by its revered French chef and owner Daniel Boulud, who is also at the helm of two-Michelin starred DANIEL in New York. With such a pedigree backing his work, it’s not surprising that DBGB, currently run by Chef Nicholas Tang, who himself brings a global perspective along with a focus on local seasonal ingredients, continues to be one the most consistently solid restaurants in the city. 

I dined at DBGB recently to try their Festive menu for the season and enjoyed a wonderfully complete and delicious evening. This four course offering, available through the month of December for lunch and dinner is such a great deal for the quality and quantity of food you get: it is $65 for lunch and $78 for dinner. The special menu has been designed in a way to facilitate ease of choice, with lots of luxurious touches to really get that “treat yourself for the holidays” feeling. 

For the first course, you have a choice of a kale salad that comes with delicata squash and quinoa, or Maryland crab cakes with celery root and mustard. I am absolutely obsessed with winter delicata squash, and loved the roasted addition to the salad. The crab cakes were also good,  with 2 nicely sized, meat heavy cakes. If you’re really feeling festive, you can begin with an optional champagne toast and tarté flambée for the table prior to the first course for $10. 

The second course is a wild mushroom cavatelli with shaved black truffle and Parmesan, and was easily one of the highlights. The layering of the pasta with the hearty mushrooms and the generous shaving of truffle merged together beautifully – I would happily order this again and again.

Moving to the third course, diners have a choice of classic French offerings: salmon with lentils, steak au poivre, or duck a l’orange. We went family style at the table, so I was able to try all of these options. I highly recommend that you and your dining companions do the same with picking different options to share, because all the dishes are really good.

The duck is just fantastic; the crispy skin was superbly done, and the meat was tender and flavorful. It’s served on a bed of wild rice along with endive and a sauce “bigarde” made with oranges. The dish itself is beautiful to look at and generously portioned. It does cost a $5 supplement, but it’s absolutely worth it.

Also enjoyable was the NY Steak Au Poivre: peppered striploin served with buttery smooth pommes puree, brussels sprouts, and an Au Poivre sauce. A combination that is always satisfying if done well, and in this case was faultless. 

If you want to keep it just a bit lighter, the salmon is a good option. It’s nicely done with a crispy skin and served with puy lentils and savoy cabbage. The whole grain mustard jus is a tasty touch that complemented the peppery lentils well. A vegetarian main course can also be available upon request – just make a note of it on the reservation – but you could also request it on the day of and the kitchen will accommodate you. 

To finish off, dessert is a classic holiday Bûche de Noël– chocolate flourless cake with chocolate buttercream and served with a refreshing coffee ice cream. The cake was also well made and nicely creamy. You’ll also get freshly baked Madeleines, which if you are too full at this point make for a great takeaway to enjoy with coffee later. 

Rounding off the dining experience is a good wine pairing if you choose, which is $45 and includes 3 oz pours for each course. I was especially happy to see local selections from Early Mountain in the pairings. It’s always nice when a larger restaurant of this caliber supports local food and drink purveyors. 

Overall, all the dishes were enjoyable with a few that truly amazed. For this quality of food, the price is not just reasonable, it’s a steal. This would be a great option for work holiday parties, or a holiday gathering for larger groups this December. Or just to go treat yourself.

DBGB continues to be a winning restaurant. 

DBGB: 931 H St. NE, DC; 202-695-7660; www.dbgb.com

Photo: Lanna Nguyen

New Fall Menu Additions at Blue Duck Tavern

Just in time for the holidays and winter season, executive chef Adam Howard has added hearty, warming dishes to Blue Duck Tavern’s dinner menu. The restaurant at West End’s Park Hyatt is known for its focus on wood-burning cooking techniques, with ¾ of the menu prepared using the wood-burning oven, and regionally-sourced ingredients.

These new seasonal dishes can be ordered for one as an entree size, or large format to be shared among the table. The latter option plays into the restaurant’s communal dining experience, where the open kitchen and separate Chef’s Table offer plenty of opportunities to gather, share and enjoy regionally-inspired dishes in a convivial atmosphere. 

New to the menu are hearty and rich dishes, providing welcome additions at a time when DC prepares for the winter chill. To begin the meal, the baby gem lettuce (a menu mainstay) gets an autumnal twist with tasso ham-cured Georgia candy roaster squash, roasted black walnuts, pickled pink eye peas with a fried confit of pig ear, and is finished with a turmeric slaw dressing.

Other standouts from the appetizer selection include the foie gras mousse, a balanced blend of flavors and textures: rich foie gras with a light and airy presentation in mousse form. Paired with fermented mustard seed, charred green onions, miso ginger roasted pink lady apples, the mousse is served with johnny cakes – the perfect vessel to spread and enjoy the foie gras on. 

For those looking to start off with a lighter appetizer, opt for the ocean trout crudo. Cured and sliced, it’s served with a tahini-sorghum puree, pomegranate fluid gel, salted cucumbers and fresh pomegranate seeds and Aleppo citrus salt. 

Moving to entrees, guests have their choice of rich, flavorful dishes in line with Blue Duck Tavern’s reputation of turning out bold and savory offerings. Lamb fans will rejoice in a roasted lamb breast stuffed with house-made merguez sausage, which is then enveloped in Chinese mustard zaatar and other spices before being smoked. The result: a deliciously crisp exterior and layers of flavors within. Hummus, cucumber yogurt and harissa accompany the dish along with grilled-to-order sourdough naan. 

A 100-day aged dairy cow prime rib offers extra depth in flavor than what is customary of a prime rib dish. It’s cooked sous-vide and then finished in an 800-degree wood-burning oven. A traditional Yorkshire pudding, creamed lacinato kale au poivre pickled fresno chimichurri and horseradish cream round out the dish.

Other additions to the Fall Menu include a seared sturgeon served with a vegetarian take on the traditional dirty rice, herb-roasted chicken brined and stuffed with herb butter, black garlic-buckwheat cavatelli with pasta made fresh in-house every morning and served with foraged forest mushroom and preserved kumquat. 

To end the meal on a sweet note, pastry chef Colleen Murphy has added playful desserts such as a candied pecan custard paired with a concord grape sorbet, an elevated twist on the familiar peanut butter and jelly flavor combination. Chocolate lovers will naturally steer their attention to the stout espresso pot de creme, a delicate flourless chocolate cake with smoked salt caramel and malted milk ice cream. Both options hit the right, light note after indulging in heavier entree dishes. 

To round out the evening, head to the garden terrace, dubbed the Fire Garden during the colder months, for after dinner drinks. Sip on hot cocktails and mulled wine by the fire pits and cozy up with blankets, wraps and extra heating lamps on hand to keep things toasty despite what the temperature reads, allowing the whole experience to keep diners warm at Park Hyatt’s restaurant in more ways than one.

Dinner is served Sunday through Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Blue Duck Tavern: 1201 24th St, NW; 202-419-6755; www.blueducktavern.com