Photo: Courtesy of Bourbon Steak
Photo: Courtesy of Bourbon Steak

Fall Cocktails in the City

I know summer is over because DC bars are rolling out their fall menus, which means richer, darker drinks for cooler days. I was thrilled to get observer status at the staff briefing for Bourbon Steak’s new fall cocktails, where charismatic head bartender Torrance Swain has unleashed his creativity to convince us that summer was overrated, anyway.

My favorite creation? Definitely the Tin Kit – Johnnie Walker Black, lime, vanilla, grapefruit bitters and grapefruit soda, shrouded in a mist of Compass Box Peat Monster whiskey. Peaty whisk(e)ys are difficult in cocktails because smoke overpowers everything (as anyone who’s perched by a campfire knows). But the mist of Peat Monster over this citrusy whiskey cocktail toned down its brightness, making it sophisticated enough for a posh autumn breakfast party in the Scottish countryside. Or in Georgetown. My takeaway: I need my own mini-atomizer so I can experiment with microscopic quantities of smoky scotch at my home bar (Amazon says it will be here tomorrow).

If you’re not into dark liquors, Bourbon Steak’s fall cocktail menu also has lots of vodka- and gin-based drinks swathed in berries and spices, like the Rare Essence, named for DC’s premier go-go band. What looks like a gin and tonic in a large brandy glass is actually a mix of Aviation Gin, Manzanilla Sherry and rose water. Aviation is less juniper-intensive than most gins, so it melds easily with the mineral-forward Manzanilla and the rose water, resulting in a crisp, floral-accented refresher. For counterpoint, it is served with a carafe of rich crimson goodness: housemade black current cordial, lemon oleo, Strega and a spring of fresh lavender. This startlingly rich, slightly tangy concoction can be added to the gin drink in whatever quantity makes you happy.

But for seasonality, whiskey is where it’s at when the temps drop. Even Archipelago, whose tiki theme is redolent of lazy weather and rum, is experimenting with whiskey. Earlier this month, Archipelago hosted Virginia Distilling Co. to put their Virginia-Highland Whisky to use – no ‘e’ because they brought over actual scotch from Scotland, added a little local malted liquor (to make regulators happy) and finished it in port-wine casks. The result is a smooth sipper that’s a little sweeter than most scotch (due to the barrel finish), with undertones of holiday spice and dark berries. Weirdly, this goes well in tiki drinks. The winner of the evening was the Virginian’s Downfall: whisky, peach brandy, pineapple, honey and mint – the holidays meet the tropics. In classic tiki fashion, it was deceptively easy to drink and packed a real punch.

While I love whisk(e)y, complex recipes and high-concept headturners, I was reminded of the timeless brilliance of simplicity when I waltzed into The Riggsby for happy hour with the girls – the classic champagne cocktail ($7 at happy hour!) is a glass of bubbles with an angostura-soaked sugar cube. So elegant, so refreshing – the bitters take the edge off the acidity in the champagne, while the gradual dissolution of the sugar cube means the cocktail changes gently over the course of consumption. It’s so easy to do at home, and looks so sophisticated (though you might need to stock up at office supply stores – cubes aren’t very trendy right now and might not be on your grocery’s shelves).

Of course, if you don’t want all the DIY bother, there are lovely bartenders who will do all the work for you.

Archipelago: 1201 U St. NW, DC; www.archipelagobardc.com

Bourbon Steak DC: 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; www.bourbonsteakdc.com

The Riggsby: 1731 New Hampshire Ave. NW, DC; www.theriggsby.com

Photo: Courtesy of George Mason University's Center for The Arts
Photo: Courtesy of George Mason University's Center for The Arts

Spend a Romantic Evening with Tango Buenos Aires

Tango Buenos Aires brings sensual moves to Northern Virginia on Friday, October 13 and Saturday, October 14 with their performance of The Spirit of Argentina, a journey through the transformation of one of the most famous dance styles in the world performed to the classical compositions of Carlos Gardel.

French-Argentine singer, songwriter, composer, actor and central figure in the history of tango, Gardel died tragically in a plane crash at the height of his career, making him even more immortal in tango culture.

We caught up with Tango Buenos Aires Owner/Artistic Director Rosario Bauza about what to expect from the two performances, at Hylton Performing Arts Center on October 13 and George Mason University’s Center for the Arts on October 14.

On Tap: What does tango mean to you?
Rosario Bauza: The tango is passion, but above all things is the embrace that surrounds us.

OT: What are your favorite stories to tell through tango?
RB: My favorite story is when I work with people with different abilities and through the tango, their music and dance combines with the world and art.

OT: How is tango evolving now? How are you bridging the gap between tradition and staying fresh?
RB: I think the secret is in the history of its past, and to keep it fresh in the present. And then, why not to the future?

OT: What’s the secret to performing a great tango?
RB: First, [have] a very good professional write the script, then a very good development of that script to the stage. The secret is to put all the feeling and professionalism; this is what I do with my different tango shows [and it’s] extremely successful.

OT: Tango is iconically Argentinian. Do you ever infuse influences in your dance from the cities that you travel to and perform in?
RB: The tango is iconic of Buenos Aires, therefore of Argentina. In 1991, I went with Tango Buenos Aires to China. At that time, it was not the China we see today. After a month of having gone, I read in a newspaper in Argentina that in Beijing, the Chinese were practicing tango in the public squares after having seen our performances.

OT: What are you excited about on this current tour of Tango Buenos Aires?
RB: Much of the history of this show is the life of Carlos Gardel, an icon of tango. In Argentina, they call him “the voice of tango.” I am excited that in this Tango Buenos Aires, we have Gardel and two of the countries I love: Argentina and the USA.

OT: What should the audience expect from Tango Buenos Aires if this is their first time seeing a performance? What about for those that have seen a past performance?
RB: Those who will see Tango Buenos Aires for the first time, I think they will never forget it. I am sure they will want to practice tango dance. Those who have seen a past performance will see a new version since I renew Tango Buenos Aires every three years. Tango Buenos Aires is the official name of the show, [and] the subtitle is the story that we developed – in this case, historic Carlos Gardel.

Tango Buenos Aires’ The Spirit of Argentina is in Hylton Performing Arts’ Merchant Hall on October 13; tickets are available here. The October 14 event is at George Mason University’s Center for The Arts; purchase tickets here. Also, a beginners’ tango class is available prior to the Friday night performance; sign up here

Hylton Performing Arts Center: 10960 George Mason Cir. Manassas, VA; www.hyltoncenter.org 

George Mason University’s Center for The Arts: 4373 Mason Pond Dr. Fairfax, VA; www.cfa.gmu.edu 

Photo: Courtesy of Shakespeare Theatre Company
Photo: Courtesy of Shakespeare Theatre Company

Shakespeare Theatre Unleashes a New Star in ‘The Collection’

To kick off the 2017˗2018 season, Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) Artistic Director Michael Kahn revisits the ambiguous and darkly comic world of playwright Harold Pinter. The program of two one-act plays, at STC’s Lansburgh Theatre through October 29, explores the complexities of marriage and infidelity.

Pinter wrote The Collection and The Lover early in his Nobel Prize-winning, 50-year career, and both contain Pinter’s signature silences and weighty pauses – as well as the “angry young man” character he’s known for. The Collection also introduces audiences to a first-time actress who’s clearly destined to be a star – Dante’s Beatrice, a.k.a. Sweet Bea – a small, long-haired white cat.

“Michael Kahn was very keen to get a Persian,” says STC Publicist Amy Hughes, “because that was the cat written into the play.”

To find the perfect feline, a call went out on social media and through email, and several cats (eh-hem, owners) responded. Staff had a great time “auditioning” each one, but Sweet Bea was the obvious choice. For the audition, the fluffy eight-year-old kitty met Lisa Dwan, the actress playing Stella.

“They bonded really nicely,” says Sweet Bea’s mom, Susan Galbraith.

The story follows a young marriage in jeopardy, and Stella’s husband Bill is determined to confront the man he believes to be his wife’s lover. As Stella’s furry companion, the cat accompanies her human while the drama unfolds, adding a touch of glamour while sitting regally on a velvet sofa.

“Harold Pinter has a certain understanding of women and their potential menace,” Galbraith explains.

When I met Sweet Bea in her dressing room, she made quite an impression. Her wide eyes and soft, flowing fur paired with the irritated flick of her tail and a low growl emitted (after being held too long) certainly seem to fit the character requirements. The cat has participated in rehearsals and will appear onstage in every performance of the play.

“Michael Kahn has always seemed quite happy with [her],” Galbraith says.

While Sweet Bea may look like she comes from the world of commercial modeling, her life has not been easy.

“This is a rags-to-riches story,” Hughes says.

Sweet Bea is a rescue “found down the spout, in a drain [with] no fur,” Galbraith recalls. “She was left to starve, so she was stunted. No one wanted her. They said, ‘Please take this cat; she’s probably not even going to survive.’”

Her petite stature makes Sweet Bea a great fit for the play, as she easily passes for a kitten.  According to Galbraith, the feline star has always wanted to embody a Pinter woman, and is full of alluring mystery.

“She credits her rough childhood, seduced and then abandoned, for the truthfulness she hopes audiences will appreciate.”

Galbraith has big ambitions for the tiny white ball of fluff, adding, “She would like to be considered for the evil cat role in any James Bond remake.”

And, always a professional, “She wants to thank Michael Kahn for first discovering her talent, and her wranglers, Susan and Duane.”

All joking aside, the decision to incorporate an animal into a stage play is bold, and bolder yet is the director’s choice to ensure the playwright’s instructions are followed literally by casting a live cat. Sweet Bea is by all accounts rising to the challenge.

Although, Galbraith says, “She’s becoming a bit of a diva.”

The Lover and The Collection run through October 29 at STC’s Lansburgh Theatre. Tickets start at $59. Learn more at www.shakespearetheatre.org.

STC’s Lansburgh Theatre: 450 7th St. NW, DC; 202-547-1122; www.shakespearetheatre.org

 

Photo: Shawn Brackbill
Photo: Shawn Brackbill

Cults On Tour For Their Latest ‘Offering’

Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion of Manhattan (not Brooklyn, for you Williamsburg-to-DC transplants pretending the band’s futuristic doo-wop sound is completely drenched in hipsterdom), spoke to me while on a rooftop in NYC. Because they are the famous pair that together make up the indie pop band Cults, they probably do these press conversations together all the time. And because of their national status, these interviews likely take place over the phone. These two were experts.

To avoid a snafu with cell reception, they stood several feet apart from one another. Without thinking, my first question had nothing to do with their music – absolutely zero pertaining to their new album Offering (their first album in four years, by the way). Instead, I asked: “Are you two making funny faces at each other?”

“Madeline actually just turned around, and is now facing a wall,” Oblivion said, chuckling.

The answer was yes, without saying yes.

The music on their first two albums Cults (their 2011 debut album, which started as an art project), and Static (their 2013 personal relationship breakup album), is sort of vintage. Not so much in the way it’s made, but in the nostalgia they dug up. No one knows this better than the two who cultivated the sound; they even went as far as calling their new album a Technicolor version, as opposed to their previous black and white iterations.

“For me, this is the most authentic record we’ve made so far,” Oblivion, who plays guitar/percussion, said. “The band started as an art project for the two of us, where we wanted to take the retro sound we love and screw with it. This time there was no pretense, and it’s a new thing, because we’ve had album art before we wrote a song. Even in the lyrics, the songs are more complex and deal with more existential issues.”

The album art he refers to is a pair of glowing hands held up toward the sky, which is kind of the perfect album art for a band titled Cults. And though I couldn’t listen to the album in advance, you can feel the difference in the band’s approach to music, and they explained as much, from their growth as a) people living at home instead of on a traveling tour bus and b) musicians stretching their comfort zones with genre boundaries and instruments.

“I think we definitely needed the time to just grow as people and as songwriters also,” Follin, the band’s singer, said. “It was really important because we’ve been touring since we were in college. We haven’t been in New York as normal humans living a normal life. We needed that time to have normal experiences to create this record. It was great not having a schedule really; I could just write whenever I felt inspired to write. It wasn’t ever a forced thing.”

Follin says the time helped in the creative process too – the blank calendars hanging on the walls, the freedom for her and Oblivion to somehow birth more than four hours of music, and then the lack of outside pressures to actually sit and sift through the gargantuan back catalog in search of an album.

Offering is now complete, and will be released on October 6. Fans of the band, including myself (who pondered the deeper meanings of the song “Outside” in a little newspaper office, which had no windows), have had to get by on the three singles: “Right Words,” “I Took Your Picture” and “Offering.”

“We’ve played these songs a couple times so far, and they go over better than anything we’ve written so far,” Oblivion said. “They bang way harder, so they’re really fun to play live. We play the old songs way differently now too, so we’re excited to show them [to] crowds as well. It’s completely different.”

The two also released a music video in mid-September, which combines the first two singles into an oddball video where Follin undergoes an almost out-of-body experience while Oblivion repeatedly knocks on the door, as if he’s being left out of the fun purposefully. As former film students from the mecca of New York University, one would have to wonder if a true visual album for Offering was on the horizon. They’ve already dipped their toe in the short film water, so why not go full-on Kanye West (Runaway) or Frank Ocean (Endless)?

“We’re kind of edging toward it now, and we put out a video with two songs that sort of meld together,” Oblivion said. “Our joke is that we’re going to do them all, and call it Arnold Palmer.”

So we have no visual album (yet), and the actual record hits shelves early this month. It’s almost like the band is getting a twisted thrill in making folks wait (I’m mostly joking). You’d imagine that ravenous fans were probably lighting the band up during this waiting game; I’m sort of doing it right now.

“The coolest thing is that we’re just now starting to become active on social media, so it wasn’t that tough for us,” Follin said. “Whenever we tweeted we were playing in Texas, people were like, ‘Where the f–k is the new music?’”

Oblivion adds, “If you look around lately, the records coming out take longer now. Look at The National, Frank Ocean and Arcade Fire. We’re not sure if it’s people just recording at home, or just wanting to sift through their music for the best stuff. I don’t think anyone out there is starved for good music; there’s a ton there.”

It’s true, I suppose. There isn’t a dearth of well-crafted music, but right now, all the folks in the Cults’ cult are waiting for the latest offering in Offering. And luckily for us, we won’t have to wait much longer.

Cults play at Rock & Roll Hotel on Sunday, October 15, 8 p.m. show. Tickets are $21. For more information on the band, visit www.cultscultscults.com.

Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; 202-388-7625; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

Photo: Courtesy of Tortilladora
Photo: Courtesy of Tortilladora

New Notable No Longer: October 2017

On Tap keeps locals in the know about the hottest new food and drink spots around town, the top culinary news of the month and recent closings. Read on to get the inside scoop on what’s new, notable and no longer in the DC area.

NEW

Addie’s
Open: August 22
Location: Park Potomac
Lowdown: Black Restaurant Group reopened their beloved Addie’s in Park Potomac four years after it closed due to space constraints. The iconic restaurant is named after Jeff Black’s grandmother, and the new location is laid out like a family home, with an elegant dining room, a bustling living room and an intimate den. Subtle nods to the matriarch are seen throughout: each bag of pillowy signature rolls has a cheery school bus illustration (Addie was a kindergarten teacher). The star attraction on the menu is the custom seafood tower, which allows guests to choose from more than 20 seafood dishes, like oysters, ceviche, lobster tail and even a few hot options. My favorite was the seafood toast: Maine lobster, blue crab and gulf shrimp piled onto country bread. The selection of starters is robust enough to make a meal out of, with a rich cacio e pepe, the famous Addie’s mussels and Vietnamese caramel salmon. But leave room for the shareable dinners for two, like the succulent whole roasted Mediterranean bass. 12435 Park Potomac Ave. Potomac, MD; www.addiesrestaurant.com

Lil’ B
Open: September 8
Location: Downtown
Lowdown: Chef David Guas didn’t want his new coffee bar inside the Darcy Hotel to feel like the red-headed stepchild, so he’s been hard at work on the little details that make it a valued member of the family. With baklava croissants, a custom matte black espresso machine and Charm City mead on tap, Guas says Lil’ B is more like Bayou Bakery’s sassy little sister. The compact spot has a polished, urban vibe, but it’s not without Southern charm. The menu is influenced by Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and of course, Guas’ home state of Louisiana. In the morning, snag a fresh everything croissant filled with whipped chive cream or a classic beignet. For lunch and beyond, there’s Chef D’s muffaletta, a rich seafood gumbo with a Gulf shrimp roll. During the week, score deals during the coffee happy hour from 2-4 p.m. or the mead happy hour from 5-6 p.m. There are also grab-and-go options like pimento cheese or chicken salad, plus retail products including Counter Culture coffee and local honey. 1515 Rhode Island Ave. NW, DC; www.thedarcyhotel.com/restaurant-and-bar/lil-b

Tortilladora
Open: August 15
Location: Union Kitchen
Lowdown: Tortilladora, a delivery service operating out of Union Kitchen, wants to make every night Taco Tuesday with their globally-inspired taco kits. Chef Ed McIntosh, formerly the executive chef of Matchbox Food Group, Great American Restaurants and Hillstone Restaurant Group, was drawn to the versatility of tacos for his first solo venture. His recipes feature unique combinations like Chinese five-spice, tamarind pork tacos and miso shrimp tacos. Unlike popular meal kit services, Tortilladora doesn’t require any prep at home because each taco kit comes with fully-prepared elements in separate containers. A kit includes handmade corn tortillas and your choice of filling, garnishes and four salsas; all that’s left to do is reheat. The menu also includes sides and desserts like elote, roasted potato salad, rice and beans, guacamole with a Japanese twist, and tres leches cake. Delivery is available in the city Monday through Friday, 4-10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 12-10 p.m. 1251 9th St. NW, DC; www.myfavoritetaco.com

Wilson Hardware
Open: September 8
Location: Clarendon
Lowdown: Business partners Faris Ghareeb, Jad Bouchebel, Walid Zeytoun and Alex Haje saw the potential in the old Rí Rá building on Wilson Boulevard before they even began construction. After knocking out walls and beams, overhauling the décor and expanding the seating capacity to 300 people, the space is unrecognizable. It’s a sleek, 7,000-square-foot bar and lounge with five distinct areas: an airy dining room, a mezzanine level where a DJ spins on weekends, two patios and an Insta-worthy rooftop. The décor was curated by SWATCHROOM and includes a massive papier-mâché mural over exposed brick, a wall of mirrors and six custom metal chandeliers. The building was inhabited by a hardware store for several decades before it was an Irish pub, so the team decided to pay homage to their early predecessor with Wilson Hardware. Filament lightbulbs, steel beams and playful menu headings like “power tools” (entrées), “hand tools” (sandwiches) and “nuts and bolts” (sides) carry the industrial theme. The cuisine is a mix of upscale bar bites like corn fritters and crab dip, plus a few full-sized dinner offerings such as steak frites and stuffed chicken breast. The bar serves a variety of colorful cocktails, including frozen drinks and cocktails on draft, and they all have punny hardware names – Screw Him, Nailed It, Bright Idea (served in a lightbulb). Beer and wine is also on offer. The modern space is already packed on the weekends, with plenty of opportunity for private parties, special events and live music in the future. 2915 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.wilsonhardwareva.com

NOTABLE

The last few months have marked some big changes in popular restaurants across the region. Here are a few new chefs and menus to check out.

Taste of DC
Date: October 7-8
Location: Festival Grounds at RFK Stadium
Lowdown: This massive annual food festival has moved to a bigger location this year to accommodate even more food, drinks and entertainment. Restaurant Row will house more than 65 restaurants, and the Wine Walk will have more than 50 wines. Chili fans shouldn’t miss the seventh annual Ben’s Chili Bowl World Chili Eating Championship on Saturday, or the Chili Cook-Off on Sunday. Three stages at the event will host a variety of live music and culinary demos by regional chefs. Tickets start at $9.99 for general admission, and various upgrade packages include swag and exclusive access. 2400 East Capitol St. SE, DC; www.thetasteofdc.org

One Eight Distilling Releases DC’s First Bourbon
Location: Ivy City
Lowdown: Just in time for National Bourbon Heritage Month, One Eight Distilling released DC’s first bourbon distilled and bottled in the District since Prohibition on September 16. Rock Creek Bourbon will be offered at a number of local bars, restaurants and retailers. Read Joel Goldberg’s review of Rock Creek Bourbon’s release party, and learn more about the bourbon at One Eight’s website. One Eight Distilling: 1135 Okie St. NE, DC; www.oneeightdistilling.com

In Support of the Pups: Barrel Oak’s Successful Fundraising Efforts
Location: Delaplane
Lowdown: Barrel Oak Winery Owners Brian and Sharon Roeder are huge dog lovers, so when they heard about Hurricane Harvey and Irma, they knew they wanted to help. In September, this dog-friendly winery and tap house raised over $4,000 and donated the funds to organizations helping with hurricane relief, and also collected over 10 tons of pet supplies to send to Texas and Florida. Those who want to help can bring pet supplies directly to the winery, or stop in for a tasting and leave a donation. Barrel Oak Winery: 3623 Grove Ln. Delaplane, VA; www.barreloak.com

Virginia Wine Festival
Date: October 14-15
Location: Oronoco Bay Park
Lowdown: The 42nd annual Virginia Wine Festival will take place in Old Town Alexandria for the first time, offering unlimited wine tastings, craft exhibitors, seminars, food trucks and live music right on the Potomac River. Attendees can sample more than 200 Virginia wines throughout the event, and enjoy deals on freshly shucked oysters and other seafood dishes at the Virginia Oyster Pavilion. Local food trucks and gourmet vendors will also be onsite serving food. General admission is $35 and VIP tickets are $65. 100 Madison St. Alexandria, VA; www.virginiawinefest.com

NOW OPEN

1230 Restaurant and Champagne Lounge: 1230 9th St. NW, DC; www.1230dc.com
Ana at District Winery: 385 Water St. SE, DC; www.anarestaurant.com
Brickhaus: 2900 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA; www.brickhausarlington.com
Arepa House DC: 2120 18th St. NW, DC; No website
BB.Q Chicken: 7115 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA; www.bbdotqchicken.com
Calle Cinco Pop-Up: 465 K St. NW, DC; www.conoscidc.com
Chef Brian’s Comfort Kitchen: 1020 19th St. NW, DC; www.iamchefbrian.com/chef-brians-comfort-kitchen
Crimson Diner and Whiskey Bar: 627 H St. NW, DC; www.crimson-dc.com
Donburi: 2438 18th St. NW, DC; www.facebook.com/donburidc
El Techo: 606 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.ritoloco.com/el-techo/
Morris American Bar: 1020 Seventh St. NW, DC; www.morrisbardc.com
Nobu: 2501 M St. NW, DC; www.noburestaurants.com
OKI Bowl DC: 1817 M St. NW, DC; www.okibowldc.com
Quara Ethiopian Restaurant: 2406 18th St. NW, DC; www.quaraethiopianrestaurant.com
Sense of Place Cafe: 4807 1st St. N. Arlington, VA; www.senseofplacecafe.com
Silver: 3404 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.eatatsilver.com
Succotash: 915 F St. NW, DC; www.succotashrestaurant.com
Sugar Shack Donuts/Nocturne Cocktail Bar: 1932 9th St. NW, DC; www.sugarshackdonuts.com
Thai Chef Street Food: 1712 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.thaichefdc.com

NO LONGER

Boss Shepherd’s in Penn Quarter
Honeycomb in Union Market
Red Apron Burger Bar in Dupont Circle
Taqueria Distrito Federal in Columbia Heights

Photo: Blue Mountain Brewery
Photo: Blue Mountain Brewery

Blue Mountain Brewery: 10 Years on Taps

Nelson County, Virginia is home to the sights and sounds of the Appalachian wilderness. And 10 years ago, it became the birthplace of Blue Mountain Brewery. Opened in Afton, Virginia in 2007 by Mandi and Taylor Smack and Matt Nucci, the brewery was the first in the county, but has extended their reach across Virginia in the years since.

“There were a number of very wonderful wineries in Nelson County when we first arrived,” says Taylor Smack. “Notably Veritas, to whom we’ll always be indebted for their early support, and Cardinal Point, who also have remained great friends – but no other breweries [at that time]. Now Nelson boasts 14 wineries, five breweries, three distilleries and two hard apple cideries.”

As breweries like Devils Backbone, Wild Wolf and Wood Ridge made their way into Nelson, Blue Mountain kept growing and growing. With a budding distribution list and an expanding brewery built up over the years, Blue Mountain can now be readily found on tap and in stores in Northern Virginia.

Already established as both a brewery and restaurant, Blue Mountain expanded capacity with the establishment of the Blue Mountain Barrel House in 2012. Located in Arrington about 30 minutes from the brewery, the Barrel House serves as the R&D department for the brewery, and takes care of all canning and bottling.

“Barrel House has become the production facility to handle our expansion with all our beers,” Taylor explains. “We once did everything at the Afton Blue Mountain location – barrel-aging, bottling, canning, kegging – but now [that’s all] done [with] larger-scale, more technical equipment at the Barrel House.”

While growth is key, being environmentally sustainable is a core value at Blue Mountain, and the brewery practices what it preaches.

As the first Virginia brewery to join the Virginia Green program in 2007, they set out to be the example to follow. With two hop fields in Afton, a hop yard in Arrington and onsite water treatment at both locations, the Smacks have raised the bar on what can be done to grow your business while minimizing your footprint.

“We have always been committed to being green,” Mandi says enthusiastically. “We’ve used reusable glass bottles for draft fill-ups, recycled aluminum, glass and cardboard, sold back our kitchen grease for reuse, grown some of our own seasonal vegetables, used recycled to-go boxes, and always supported local farmers and growers.”

So what do you do when hard work and dedication have kept your business running for 10 years? Easy – throw a 10-day party for all to enjoy. Blue Mountain will feature 10 straight days of live, local music along with giveaways and daily discounts on draft beers, according to Mandi.

“We’re focusing on our original brews from the early years,” she says. “We’ve even brought back our original Nitro Porter to have during the celebration. Some of the live music that we’ll have are bands that grew up alongside of us. We’ve even asked a few bands that are no longer playing together to come back and do a reunion set for this anniversary soirée.”

Not only is Blue Mountain celebrating in-house, the brewery also has special events planned at bars and restaurants, Mandi says.

“We’re hosting 10 tap takeovers at different venues across the state – from Richmond to NoVA to Charlottesville. All of these events will have at least 10 [Blue Mountain] beers on draft during the event.”

The festivities begin Friday, October 27 and continue all the way through Sunday, November 5. So grab a pint and a friend, and let the good times roll.

Blue Mountain Barrel House: 495 Cooperative Way, Arrington, VA

Blue Mountain Brewery: 9519 Critzers Shop Rd. Afton, VA; www.bluemountainbrewery.com

Photo: Trent Johnson
Photo: Trent Johnson

Behind the Bar: October 2017

The 2017-2018 theatre season is in full swing, and with it comes the opportunity to visit nearby bars and restaurants for a pre- or post-show libation and bite to eat. We picked spots nestled close to some of DC’s best theaters to see what they offer local theatergoers out on the town.


Photo: Trent Johnson

Photo: Trent Johnson

Kateryna Vasinkina 
Bartender, Station 4
Neighborhood theatre: Arena Stage

On Tap: Is it common for people to come to Station 4 before shows at Arena Stage?
Kateryna Vasinkina: Yes, we have a big rush of people before the shows. It’s very busy for us, and it’s an interesting time because you can meet a ton of interesting people. After the show, it’s common for the casts of the show to come and have a drink.

OT: Do they ever come in costume?
KV: Actually, yes! There was a guy from Chicago who came in; he was an actor, and all of his face and body was tattooed. It was temporary, but they were all over.

OT: What drinks would you suggest for theatergoers?
KV: It’s all a matter of personal choice. Some people enjoy a bottle of wine, while others prefer a drink afterwards. We do have different types of wines, from sweet to dry, and we have a number of cocktails for folks to try.

OT: What kind of drink would you have before going to a show?
KV: I think my drink of choice right now would be the Spring Bee because it’s sweet and sour, and it has honey. I love honey.

Station 4 1 (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Kateryna’s Pick
Georgia Tea
Maker’s Mark
Peach schnapps
Lemon juice
Bitters
Simple syrup

Station 4: 1101 4th St. SW, DC; www.station4dc.com

Arena Stage: 1101 6th St. SW, DC; www.arenastage.org


Sonoma 2 (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Shari Davis and Karima Ouazzani
Beverage Director and General Manager, Sonoma Restaurant & Wine Bar
Neighborhood theatre: Folger Theatre

On Tap: What drinks do you offer theatergoers? 
Karima Oazzani: We have a wine special by the bottle. We sell that more than anything else.
Shari Davis: If they’re doing the preshow special, they’re probably going to drink a bottle of wine. But if they’re just coming in right before, they’ll probably go for a cocktail, which makes sense because wine is a little longer. You want to sit and enjoy it.

On Tap: What kinds of drinks do you suggest before a play? Are people ever worried about being a little too loose during the show?
SD: We have an assortment of lighter drinks – from cocktails to even our beers. We have a lot of things beyond wines. Our wine spritzers are also great for that type of event. We make a mean, mean wine spritzer.

OT: What’s your relationship with Folger and other local theaters?
SD: We’re pretty friendly with a lot of people that frequent their shows. On Saturdays, we’ll have a ton of actors come in before their shows, and they’ll tell us what they’re up to.

OT: Tell us more about the preshow menu. 
SD: People still want to have a dining experience, so we want to make sure they still [receive one]. And the pre-theater [experience] is designed for that.
KO: We’ve developed the menu in a way that’s delicious and tasty, but can still be done in a short time.

Photo: Trent Johnson

Photo: Trent Johnson

Shari and Karima’s Pick
A Glass of Fuso Barbera

Sonoma Restaurant & Wine Bar: 223 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, DC; www.sonomadc.com

Folger Theatre: 201 E Capitol St. SE, DC; www.folger.edu


Photos: Courtesy of Dirty Habit

Photos: Courtesy of Dirty Habit

Sarah Ruiz
Head Bartender, Dirty Habit
Neighborhood theatres: Shakespeare Theatre Company, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

On Tap: How has the drink menu evolved since opening last year?
Sarah Ruiz: One evolution is the collaboration among the entire bar staff. Almost every team member has put their own drink creation on the menu over the last year.

OT: What new cocktails will be available this fall? Any standouts?
SR: Our new fall menu will be available in mid-October. We will be bringing back some hits from last fall, as well as adding some new seasonal cocktails to transition guests into winter. The “Santor-ini” is our take on the dirty martini, and it’s a fun one!

OT: Tell me about the Fuji-La. What inspired the ingredients?
SR: [It’s] an end-of-summer drink with flavors that easily flow into fall. It is a simple sour with calvados and pear brandy as the base.

OT: Do theater patrons or cast members visit Dirty Habit pre- or post-show?
SR: We hosted a party for the cast of Shakespeare Theatre’s King Charles III, and a happy hour for the Woolly Mammoth team. It was great meeting the actors and chatting with them about their shows. Our team is launching a pre-show menu where guests can enjoy a special multi-course dinner soon.

OT: Have you visited any theaters near Dirty Habit?
SR: I’ve been to the Shakespeare Theatre [and] Woolly Mammoth. Dirty Habit participated in a community partnership night at Shakespeare Theatre in August. We served the Rosa Caraveda. It’s like a floral, summer, negroni-esque cocktail.

Dirty Habit (Photo - Courtesy of Dirty Habit)

Sarah’s Pick
Fuji-La
1 oz. caramelized pineapple
3/4 lemon
3/4 chamomile honey syrup
1 oz. calvados
1 oz. pear brandy

Dirty Habit: 555 8th St. NW, DC; www.dirtyhabitdc.com 

Shakespeare Theatre Company: 610 F St. NW, DC and 450 7th St. NW, DC; www.shakespearetheatre.org

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company: 641 D St. NW, DC; www.woollymammoth.net

Photos: Courtesy of Congressional Cemetery
Photos: Courtesy of Congressional Cemetery

Headstones and Hooch: October in Congressional Cemetery

Nestled in the heart of DC near the former DC General Hospital and the Anacostia River are 30 acres of rolling green hills, shaded by ancient trees and filled with birdsong. Established before the Civil War, Congressional Cemetery is an active green space, off-leash dog park and the resting place of more than 65,000 people. It’s the perfect spot for picnickers, history buffs, art appreciators and anyone who loves Halloween.

Older than Arlington Cemetery, Congressional is filled with beautifully carved headstones and sculpted angels, as well as the best spot outside of the Tidal Basin to experience the cherry blossoms, which bloom in a canopy over a path leading to a small and charming chapel. Markers range from simple names and dates to funny epitaphs.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, nearby residents used it like parkland. Children played, dogs frolicked and couples courted. After World War II, public parks were established and funded by government agencies, and the cemetery fell into disrepair. Urban decay and the space’s dereliction made it perfect for criminal activity.

But in the 1990s, local dog walkers came to the rescue. They reclaimed the space, eventually raising money and establishing a nonprofit to restore and care for the historic site. Not only is it pup-friendly, the cemetery has also become a favorite spot for runners.

“People can have a really fulfilling experience in the space that brings them joy,” says Kelly Carnes, who discovered the cemetery while walking her pooch. “The best way to respect the dead is to celebrate living.”

October, of course, is one of the best times to visit. As the leaves change and the weather cools, get into the Halloween spirit by going on special night tours. You just might run into the specters of First Lady Dolley Madison, composer John Philip Sousa and silent screen film star Mary Fuller, but the hundreds of politicians underfoot might be the scariest ghosts of all.

Soul Strolls takes place on October 20-21 and 27-28 at $22 per ticket, with beer, wine and cider available for purchase. This year, the public vault will be transformed into a Prohibition era speakeasy featuring craft cocktails for sipping in and around the building. Purchase a VIP ticket, and after the tour, your guide will admit you to the pop-up bar where you can mingle with some of the lawmakers and lawbreakers of the 1920s.

If you’re looking for a healthier alternative, participate in the seventh annual Dead Man’s Run 5K on October 7 at 6 p.m. for $40 per runner.

“There are so many reasons why I love this race,” says Catherine Collins, who has participated in the last five Dead Man’s Runs. “Everyone’s attitude is amazing, and they are there to have fun and be a little scared. I love all the great costume ideas people come up [with].”

The route takes runners through the cemetery and along the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. Following the race, a DJ spins while runners and their fans snack on giant soft pretzels, enjoy beer and dance to spooky tunes.

Congressional Cemetery is open from dawn to dusk daily. The cemetery also serves as an off-leash dog park, so a friendly dog or two might join you! Learn more at www.congressionalcemetery.org.

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Washington Capitals Focus On Youth As Key Veterans Depart

Following another early exit from the playoffs, the Washington Capitals are eager to get back to hockey and put the specter of last season behind them. To aid in that effort, a new team identity has been built that’s largely dependent on its young talent, following years of leaning heavily on a veteran-laden lineup.

The Capitals really have no other choice. Pressed up against the salary cap limit mandated by the league, general manager Brian MacLellan was forced to make some tough personnel decisions during the offseason. As a result, six veterans who had been on last year’s roster found themselves on new teams this summer, including talented forward Marcus Johansson, who had 58 points last year but was traded to the New Jersey Devils for draft picks to create cap space.

The freed-up money did allow MacLellan to retain first-line winger T.J. Oshie and hand out new deals to several other key players, so Washington is still loaded with experienced players at all positions. But head coach Barry Trotz knows that there are openings for several of the team’s young talent, and he expects them to impress this coming season.

“The younger players are more ready than they’ve ever been,” Trotz told On Tap. “We’ve been a veteran team the last few years and there hasn’t been a lot of competition for spots. We’re now back to getting some young guys into the lineup, which is okay. I think it’s needed.”

Trotz acknowledged that a lot of leadership experience exited this summer, and the team likely will not be as lethal offensively. Still, after being pegged as one of the top three teams in the league in recent years and having every other team gunning for them, this year’s more nondescript squad may have a chance to surprise other teams and finally get to that ever-elusive third round of the playoffs.

Rookies Riley Barber, Christian Djoos, Jakub Vrána and Madison Bowey, among others, were all expected to get long looks at training camp and exhibition games. And returning players like Andre Burakovsky, Tom Wilson, Brett Connolly and Taylor Chorney are being counted on to move up in the depth chart and assume bigger roles.

“We’ve got structure, leadership and commitment,” Trotz said. “The biggest difference is on the back end, and up front, we’re not as proven.”

The Capitals still boast an impressive collection of players that is the envy of many teams, starting with superstar Alex Ovechkin. The captain saw his goal production dip from 50 goals to 33 last year, and another early playoff exit at the hands of the archrival Penguins had some pundits wondering whether it was time to trade Ovie and conduct a vast overhaul.

Instead, Washington did some retooling and kept the team largely intact. Trotz is impressed with the work put in over the summer by Ovechkin, who looked noticeably leaner when he reported early for summer workouts.

“One of the things you look to do is evolve as a player,” Trotz said. “I think Alex is at that point in his career where he recognizes there’s still evolution to his game. As you get older, the game changes. It’s gotten way faster the past 10 years. I think he’s training to be faster. He’s probably a little leaner and lighter. He’s still very powerful – a big man. He’s making some adjustments.”

Also under the microscope will be star center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who signed an eight-year, $62.4 million contract over the summer. Part of the plan to sign Kuznetsov and others included allowing some players to walk in order to create the necessary cap space, including Karl Alzner, Justin Williams, Daniel Winnik and trade deadline pickup Kevin Shattenkirk. In addition, Johansson was traded and Nate Schmidt was scooped up by the new Vegas Golden Knights team during the expansion draft.

Kuznetsov’s point totals dropped from 77 to 59 last season, but Trotz is expecting a return to form for the young Russian. Veteran star center Nicklas Bäckström – who had 86 points last season – returns, as do key defensemen John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik and Dmitry Orlov. The team’s last line of defense, goaltender Braden Holtby, will also be back to provide a workhorse presence between the pipes. Holtby is a Vezina trophy winner for the league’s top netminder, and is one of the best at his position.

All of which leaves Trotz confident that the Capitals will once again be a dangerous hockey team, despite some of the personnel changes.

“We’re probably not as deep as we were, but we have some high-end players. As long as we can stay healthy, I think we’re going to be a team still fighting for our division and making the playoffs.”

Hopefully for the fans and the city, the Capitals are able to punch through this year and dispatch the Penguins and other foes along the way. With expectations a bit lower than previous years, perhaps Washington will be able to surprise their faithful followers this season.

Learn more about the Washington Capitals and their upcoming season at www.nhl.com/capitals, and don’t miss the first home game on Saturday, October 7 at 7 p.m. against the Montreal Canadiens.

Photo: Trent Johnson
Photo: Trent Johnson

A Day In The Life: Signature Theatre’s Gardiner Brothers

Signature Theatre is a unique space among DC area theaters for a myriad of reasons, and chief among them are the pivotal roles played by twin brothers Matthew and James Gardiner. Each has their own history with the theater spanning more than a decade; Matthew has worked at Signature for 11 years, currently as the associate artistic director, and James has transitioned from acting in Signature productions to spending the past four years as deputy director of creative content and publicity. We caught up with the pair about what Signature means to them, how DC’s theatre scene has shifted and what it’s like to work with your sibling.

On Tap: You each represent a different side of the house at Signature. How do your teams work together?
James Gardiner: I came into this as an artist, and over the last four years, I’ve learned what necessarily works as an artist doesn’t necessarily work to sell the show. But I think I also am able to marry both things. It’s a delicate balance.
Matthew Gardiner: It’s very funny to watch when marketing wants something to happen, and James is on their side but artistic is not. James is always the mediator. He’s always the one who comes in and tries to convince us because we trust James [and] they trust James.
JG: This sounds like two warring factions…
MG: I find that human interaction of, “How do I get what I want?” so fascinating. That’s why I’m a director. How do I manipulate James into doing my bidding?
JG & MG: [Both laugh]


James Can’t Live Without
(According to Matthew)
Orioles baseball
His Netflix account
Final Cut Pro X
Broadway Sirius XM
His wonderful twin brother, Matthew


OT: James, what role does video play in your day-to-day at the theater?
JG:
I do all of the marketing content as far as TV commercials, trailers, online [and] B-roll. Five years ago, the content theaters were putting out in the DC area was not good, and I just thought we weren’t doing a great job of capturing our shows and presenting them to the world. MG: James is being a little bit humble about this, but before what he has done in terms of video for theatre in DC, people would put out videos, but they were, “We set a camera up in the back of the theater and we pressed record, and here are five clips from the show.” James has made it very dynamic, and he’ll probably deny this, but I have watched other theaters in DC try to emulate that over the past few years.

OT: What was it like to go from the black box theater on Four-Mile Run to your current location?
MG: I assisted on several shows there, and that was a magical space. There’s so many wonderful things about this building, but there are so many things that are harder about it because in magical little Shirlington Village (Shirleyville by day, Shirley Vegas by night, as we call it), you can’t get away with the sh-t that you can at a bumper plating garage that’s a little sketchy. You’re like what dark, crazy sh-t can we get away with in this [space]? Anything. Whereas here, people come up and they’re like, “When are you doing Annie?” Never, we’re never doing Annie. Sorry. And if we did do Annie, it would not be the version of Annie you’d want to bring your children to.


Signature Theatre DIL 1 (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Matthew’s Signature Must-Haves
Dreamgirls Barbie
Director notebook
“Questionable/Sensible” stamps
“You Are a God Damn Magical Unicorn” notecard
Finishing the Hat (a music theatre lover’s bible)


OT: How have you watched the theater grow over the past decade?
JG: Eric [Schaeffer, Signature’s cofounder and artistic director] and Matthew throw something into [every] season that just defies expectations to keep our audience…
MG: …surprised, on its toes. His desire is always for the season to feel diverse and eclectic.
JG: Anytime something starts to feel comfortable, it feels wrong. If something feels formulaic, we push against it, which I think is good. I think it’s healthy. I think it’s what keeps this building creative, and keeps our staff happy and engaged.

OT: What have been some of your proudest moments at Signature?
MG: What’s so cool about Signature is that it’s one of the few larger theaters in DC that doesn’t have a set seating configuration, and so we’ve been really trying and pushing to use the space in more dynamic ways. I’ve seen that start to happen over the past couple of years, not just in my work but in Eric’s work, and we really push other directors to do that as well. In a world that’s so hungry for entertainment to be right at your fingertips, how do we make it more dynamic?
JG: What’s exciting to me and what I’m most proud of is when our marketing follows that strategy of engaging [our audiences]. I’m proud of when we think outside the box, [and] when we do daring, new work.

OT: What productions in the 2017-2018 season are you looking forward to most?
MG:
This production of A Little Night Music [through October 15] is one of my favorite things I’ve ever see Eric direct, and such a remarkable accomplishment for so many DC artists that are involved. I think that it’s a really beautiful production of a show that I haven’t seen done well often, and I feel like I can say that because I had nothing to do with it.
JG:
I’m very excited about Light Years. I fell in love with the band Eddie From Ohio in college; my roommate was obsessed with them. So when Eric said that he was approached by one of the band members from Eddie from Ohio about a musical I was like, “What, what, what, what, what?” I just love when we bring in writers that are just over the moon excited to be working on a new musical, and Robbie [Schaefer] is one of these people. I can’t wait to see audiences experience it because it doesn’t feel like a musical. It’s got Robbie’s unique voice.
MG: [Next] spring, I’m doing a musical based on the Matthew Sweet album from the 90s, Girlfriend. The album tells the story of Matthew Sweet’s relationship with this girl, and Todd Almond took the album and made it about two boys living in the Midwest in the 90s [with] no gay role models anywhere to be seen. But he doesn’t change a single lyric of Matthew Sweet’s album. And then Crazy for You. I grew up on the films of Judy Garland and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and Gene Kelly, and that is why I loved musical theatre. I haven’t been given a chance to direct a true MGM Hollywood musical, and so to be given the chance to do that, and imagine it in this space, is exciting to me.
JG: That’s my favorite thing too, whenever anybody’s like, “Oh, they’re doing Crazy for You? That old workhorse?” But then we do those shows and people are like, “Ohhhh.”
MG: I just think it’s funny when you
hear that. You’re like, “Have you all been to enough Signature shows to know that it’s not going to be the standard Crazy for You? [Editorial note: The brothers said Crazy for You in complete unison]. Alright, I guess not. Well, we’ll show you.” [Laughs].


Signature Theatre DIL 3 (Photo - Trent Johnson)

James’ Signature Must-Haves
Canon 60D
GoPro Hero4
USB flash drives
H5 Handy Recorder
Eric Schaeffer’s book My Signature Story


OT: What’s it like working together full-time?
MG:
I love having him here. We’re very bullheaded, but I think we also balance each other and help balance our departments. We defend each other and we defend the art, but we also defend other people in this building.
JG: When I was an actor and Matthew was directing, we ended up working together. And the whole time, it would work really great, and then in one moment, we’d be at each other’s throats. The other actors were like, “Jesus Christ, he’s really nasty to you.” But I didn’t see it that way. He just wasn’t sugarcoating things. He knows what he wants, and I’ll push back if I disagree. That was our relationship when we were little kids, too. We have the ability to fight, fight, fight, and then two minutes later, everything is totally fine.
MG: That’s just the way we operate [both laugh]. His wife will look at us and say, “I don’t understand you. You all were so mean to each other two minutes ago.” [Laughs] Well, we got it out.

OT: Signature’s team seems like a family in many ways, with familiar faces popping up in multiple productions throughout the seasons. What’s it like to work so closely, and often, with local actors and the rest of the creative team?
MG: The pool of talent here is smaller, so when you find somebody that you connect with as an artist and think is super talented, you cling to those people. You see that in DC everywhere because people are fighting for the talented people.
I think that it’s rare to have the opportunity to work with a group of actors as if they’re a company, and nobody is in a company here at Signature, but there is sort of an unspoken company of actors that we look out for and admire, and that we want to see in interesting, dynamic roles.
JG: And [these actors] are a joy to work with. A lot of people are talented, but the people that always jump out at me are the people that have awesome personalities. I want to have a drink with that person; I want to hang out with that person.


Matthew Can’t Live Without
(According to James)
Bravo TV
A sensible winter jacket (purchased annually)
His iPhone
The 1987 rom-com Overboard starring Goldie Hawn
Spotify


OT: What goals do you have for Signature in the next few years?
MG:To keep creating experiences that not just tell stories, but create full, interactive, involving experiences for their audience. I want to see audiences out of their seats. Those are the most exciting things to me.
JG: I think we’re a leader in new works and in the creation of new works, but I think we could be even better and could go even further in challenging ourselves. I want to see our audiences get larger and our subscription numbers get bigger, and just engage audiences in new ways.

OT: How do you think DC theatre is changing, and what impact is it having locally?
MG: It’s gotten better and more professional, and the work that every theater is doing is more interesting. And the fact that there’s so much great theatre only makes what we do better. There’s a very healthy competition and fight, which is necessary. To survive as an organization and as artists, you need that. I think we all challenge each other.
JG:
I think the growth of DC theatre, and theatre in general across the country, is redefining what theatre is. There’s ways that we can defy expectations and do something completely different, and I think you’re seeing that a lot in New York [and] in DC.

Learn more about Signature Theatre’s 2017-2018 season at www.sigtheatre.org.